From the headline alone, I will probably have a bounty on my head from anybody in the vicinity of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I probably am guilty of heresy in their eyes, but I pray for a little mercy from Tide fans to hear me out for just a few paragraphs.
I mean no disrespect to the giant of college football himself. There's a reason his name graces an award that goes to the best college football coach in the country. This article is merely an analogy to compare what Bryant's legacy in Alabama lore could translate to Boise State fans, Chris Petersen, and his ultimate legacy.
Granted, Petersen is not a product of Boise State like Bryant was at 'Bama, but that's beside the point. Bryant amassed perhaps the greatest legacy of any coach in college football (great, now I have that bounty coming from Tallahassee and Happy Valley). With all his wins coming from several institutions (including Texas A&M and Maryland), he had a record that was insane by even today's standards. Under his reign, the Tide were nigh unstoppable.
Petersen has the chance to do at Boise State what Bryant did at Alabama. While it was already an established program, Bryant did have more tools at his disposal. Petersen, on the other hand, took a program that was building upward and has put it on a trajectory that could only be described as skyrocketing.
The argument here is that Petersen, if he stays with Boise State in perpetuity, will mean as much to Boise State fans as Bryant makes to Alabama fans. Bryant is a God in the eyes of Tide fans, and that is obvious to anybody outside of the state. Anybody outside of Alabama football would be hard pressed to name any other coach (I had to Wiki it myself—and I fail to mention Nick Saban, because I happen to be a Dolphins fan) off the top of their head.
With Boise State, the program had Lyle Smith during its years as a junior college, where he established himself as the dean of the football program. He brought small-time glory to the Broncos and is beloved by Bronco Nation for it. Petersen has brought the football program to unprecedented heights. He is the longest tenured coach in Boise State since Jim Criner and has embedded a legacy that will be impossible to ignore.
Dan Hawkins was a good coach, but wanted glory beyond his scope. Dirk Koetter used the Broncos as a stepping stone to a BCS power conference. Houston Nutt is a footnote in the annals of Bronco Nation. Pokey Allen's reign was cut down far too soon by the big C.
As Boise State seemed caught in a coaching carousel, Petersen stopped the cycle and brought stability to the program.
This could be his legacy: Building a program from a quaint story into an overlooked college football power. Only time will tell if Petersen decides to bolt for higher glory and try and touch the sun like Icarus.
Petersen, though, is as poker-faced as any coach in the college ranks. But he exudes charm, class, and honesty. When he says he loves being in Boise, his family loves Boise, and he wouldn't bolt for another program as long as the athletic department provides what he needs to win, I believe him with all my heart.
With Petersen, I see the long careers of Bryant, Bowden, and Paterno. In order for Boise State to join the elites of college football, the need for Chris Petersen is all the greater. With the coach comes the glory.