In 1996, Boise State began its quest to become a respected NCAA Division I football program. Fourteen years later they are among the nation's top rated teams. Most experts are predicting BSU to be rated in the top five pre-season 2010 polls.
A lot of hard work and dedication along with all the normal "growing pains" were a part of the Broncos' climb to the top of the college football world.
They may be one of the best NCAA D-1 programs now, but they still have a couple of major issues lurking in the weeds.
The first and biggest issue is selling out the Bronco's home football games.
Imagine if your favorite school or alma mater was rated one of the top teams in the country. Could you just walk up and buy a ticket on most game days?
The second problem is finding BCS teams that will play BSU in the future.
About a year ago, Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier and WAC commissioner Karl Benson, went public with their difficulties in landing a major opponent that would play BSU on September 3, 2011. The date is a hole on the Bronco's 2011 schedule that is yet to be filled.
"Nobody will play us" was the cry from both Bleymaier and Benson. They went so far as to say "we'll play anybody anywhere, anytime." ESPN even got involved in trying to lure potential opponents.
"I thought I had it finalized, but I guess I'm still working in it," Bleymaier said earlier this week according to a story in the Idaho Statesman.
"A lot of it is getting the right dates. Yeah, they want a game. Yeah, we want a game and the dates don't match up," Bleymaier said. "We've got really one date. That narrows down your options very quickly. We've honed in and been working on a game and hopefully it will come together."
Does anybody know of any solid BCS programs that have an open date on September 3, 2011? If so, please let me know in the comment section below.
What we don't know right now is if the "nobody will play us" cry was about just one date (Sept. 3, 2011) or if nobody will play the Broncos period. From the sound of Mr. Bleymaier's quote above (when he said "yeah, they want a game") it would appear that there are teams out there who will indeed play BSU.
BSU has plans to increase the size of Bronco Stadium in the near future. But there is a problem looming for those plans. Boise State can't sell out their home games and the stadium is one of the smaller D-1 venues with only 33,600 seats.
When this issue is brought up among the Bronco faithful one hears a lot of excuses. "Nobody wants to watch WAC football" is common as is "BSU plays so few really good non-conference teams at home so why buy a season ticket when I can buy individual tickets to just those games I want to see?"
The WAC is a problem for BSU which is all the more reason why the Broncos must find solid non-conference opponents to come to Boise and experience the "the blue." With the lack of sellouts now, clearly the fans are screaming for BCS type opponents for those non-conference home dates.
How many of the nation's top programs are having trouble selling out stadiums that are two and even three times larger than Bronco Stadium?
We're talking about a program that ESPN rated number three in the nation today for the 2010 season. We're talking about a team that has a won two BCS Bowls and gone 48-5 over the past four years and is the “darling of ESPN” with most of the Bronco games televised nationally.
Did I mention that beyond a doubt Boise State has the most exciting, innovative and productive offense in the nation? They just don't know how to play boring football.
Boise is market size 85 with more than 600,000 in the metro area. Madison, Wisconsin is market size 88. The University of Wisconsin sells over 70,000 season tickets a year. Granted, there are about 10,000 more undergrad students at Wisconsin than at BSU, but still you would think that with over 600,000 people living with 30 to 40 minutes of Bronco Stadium, they would be able to sell 33,600 tickets for home games.
There are many top programs that pack their stadium regardless of the opponent. In fact, that's an issue for some as the quality of the home schedule at many major programs has suffered greatly simply because the Universities know that regardless of the opponent the fans will pack the stadium.
All of the conference expansion talk should bode well for Boise State. There is little doubt that BSU would be a solid addition to the Mountain West Conference and that alone could go a long way in selling out Bronco Stadium. Better opponents draw more fans.
Over the past few years only two major BCS programs, Oregon and Oregon State, have or will visit Bronco Stadium. The Ducks and Beavers sellout Bronco Stadium with more 34,000 stuffed into the venue.
BSU understands that they need to get rid of the "mid-majors" (Miami, Ohio, Tulsa, Toledo, etc.) and schedule solid BCS opponents. There are many BCS programs that would schedule home and home with BSU, providing it's done into the future.
The problem is that the "future" is now for Boise State. They must find a quality opponent for their 2011 open date and they must also work hard at improving the future home football schedules if they ever want to increase the size of Bronco Stadium.
This once “cute little team that plays on the smurf turf” has grown into one of the elite college football programs in the nation. The Bronco coaches and players are deserving of the respect and admiration of their fans. In just over 14 years they have accomplished what many programs haven’t accomplished in 50 to 75 years.
The players and coaching staff of this great team deserve to play before a sold out Bronco Stadium.