As the 2008 college football regular season draws to a close, Chris Petersen is putting the finishing touches on his third season as head football coach at Boise State University. Petersen is 34-3 since taking the lead role for the Broncos, and he is one win away from his second undefeated season.
Petersen, known locally as Coach Pete, is often asked why his teams have had so much success. The coach will never acknowledge that he is one of the greatest in college football, and he refuses to concede he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Carroll, Brown, Meyer, or Tressel.
Maybe it is Coach Pete’s modesty that has kept the Broncos rolling.
"We've had (questions about Boise’s success) so many times that sometimes when you're doing so well it's hard to explain or put your finger on it, just as it is when you're not doing well," Petersen says, "but I think the bottom line is that we've just been fortunate to have success and so the kids just really believe that they're going to have success, and sometimes that's half the battle."
That may be true.
After what many other teams would consider a successful 2007 season—the Broncos finished 10-3—true freshman wideout Titus Young was outwardly dissatisfied after the Broncos' disappointing loss in the Hawai'i Bowl and notably stated that he “...came (to Boise) to win championships.” It is hard to expect anything less on a team that had won at least a share of their conference title five straight seasons.
Petersen’s success in Boise started at the helm of Dan Hawkins when Hawkins brought him on as offensive coordinator in 2001. Petersen, though he won’t take all of the credit, is the reason the Broncos were one of the highest-scoring teams since 2001 coming into this season. In that time period, he was also twice a finalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Not only is he an offensive mastermind, but Coach Pete has proven to be pretty good at developing young players as well.
With plenty of inexperience on both sides of the ball--the Broncos started 13 underclassmen last Saturday in Reno--this was supposed to be a season to rebuild. Thanks to Petersen, rebuild is not in the vocabulary of the people of Boise. We don’t rebuild—we reload.
Sophomores Austin Pettis and Jeremy Avery, though neither are starters, are having breakout seasons on offense. On the other side of the ball, freshman George Iloka and sophomores Jeron Johnson and Brandyn Thompson have been instrumental in making this year’s team a defensive force.
The hot topic during the offseason, though, was who would get the start under center.
After local media beat the topic to death with Brett Favre-like coverage, Petersen notoriously made the decision that has had the greatest impact on the 2008 season, putting redshirt freshman Kellen Moore in the driver’s seat.
Moore has since helped prove that Petersen is deserving of the national attention and credit he gets as one of the best. The signal-caller has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns. He has a quarterback rating of 160.29, good for 13th nationally and first among freshman, along with a case for Freshman of the Year.
Moore is in the top 15 in every major quarterback statistic except touchdowns, where he is 16th.
As happy as the city of Boise is with the success of Coach Pete, we are scared of what may lie ahead.
Before our proverbial heads hit their pillows each night, we selfishly pray that our coach will not follow those that have come before him. After losing Dirk Koetter to Arizona State in 2000 and Dan Hawkins to Colorado in '05, we are well aware of the dangers that winning can bring to a mid-major program.
With the public coaching vacancies at Tennessee and Washington, we again have to endure the rumors and small talk of bored fans and football experts on their message boards and in their chat rooms, discussing what a good fit our coach would be for their program.
Though Coach Pete remains focused on this season, he is not helping us sleep at night and will not rule out leaving our program at the end of the year.
"The only thing that I always say is, 'never say never,'" Petersen said. "But this is a great place, I really, truly mean that, and we love it here. My family loves it here. I think a lot of our coaches like it here, and so I do think this is a hard place to beat."
For most coaches, "a great place" to live doesn’t hold much water to twice the annual salary and a BCS conference team.
Chris Petersen is not most coaches.
Boise State is a young team that will, almost certainly, crash the BCS again before Kellen Moore graduates, and Boise is a community that revolves around blue turf.
So coach, if you are reading this, remember what you said:
"I think a lot of [Boise State's success] has to do with the fan support here. Everybody knows it's very important, the university has always thought it's very important. It's just kind of always worked. And then once you have that tradition and expectations, everybody works very hard to carry out the mission."
It’s true that we only have a stadium capacity of 32,010, but your annual salary may finally get over $1 million this season, and our hearts are bigger than that of any Husky or Volunteer you will ever come across.
When people say that you will never finish your career in Boise, I quote the guy I admire most.
“Never say never.”