Boise State Football: Why Chris Petersen Is Staying Put in Idaho

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Boise State Football: Why Chris Petersen Is Staying Put in Idaho
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It is that time of the season yet again when teams are not performing up to snuff. Obviously, the fault lies with the head coach. The first victim this year is Arizona's Mike Stoops after he started off the season at 1-5.

Inevitably once a position at a BCS school comes open there are a range of coaches discussed, and almost always Chris Petersen is at the top of that list. And why shouldn't he be? He is currently the only two-time Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year award winner, and he has amassed an impressive 66-5 record over the past five and a half seasons. Among those wins are two BCS bowls and victories over two BCS conference champions.

All this  while recruiting 2-3 star players from all over the country to play in a 34,000 fan stadium while it's 15 degrees in the winter and 105 in the summer. There is definitely something special about Coach Petersen. 

Not even an hour after Stoops' firing was announced stories about potential replacements came on-line and guess who was at the top of the list?

Chris Petersen. 

First, I want to make something clear to Arizona. If Coach Petersen turned down Stanford he's definitely going to turn the Wildcats down.  But why is that? Well, not so much for Arizona but why would Coach Petersen turn down a higher paying job at a good BCS school? 

The answer is two-fold:  family and legacy.

When Coach Petersen was the receivers coach at Oregon his then one-year-old son, Sam, fell and hit his head during a preseason scrimmage game. What was supposed to be a routine check to make sure everything was alright turned into any parent's worst nightmare. Sam had a brain tumor that had spread to his spine.  

Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

 

This wake-up call gave Chris Petersen perspective and allowed him to put his ego of becoming a coach at a so-called "major program" on the back burner. Something that has stuck with him since. However, Dan Hawkins knew he wanted Petersen as his offensive coordinator in Boise, and knowing Petersen's situation at home Hawkins made him an unusual offer. He would only have to make recruiting trips in Idaho and for the occasional quarterback. One of those quarterbacks would eventually become Heisman finalist and perennial record breaker, Kellen Moore.      

The fact that Boise is consistently ranked as one of the best cities to raise a family in the country helped the allure of Boise State. If you have ever lived there you realize why the area has exploded over the past few decades. So Coach Petersen sees very little reason to uproot his family.

Oh and as for Sam, he celebrated his 13th birthday last summer and is an avid Broncos fan. In Boise he has a settled care group and Petersen can actually walk to his home on the beautiful Boise Greenbelt for lunch to see his family. This is nice for Chris Petersen as he is a self- proclaimed homebody, and chasing the next big job just doesn't suit him.    

The second reason I mentioned was legacy. Chris Petersen is creating a legacy at Boise State, and that is something he can't do at any other major program. Mainly because they are already established teams. When Dan Hawkins was the head coach of Boise State we marveled at the offense that brought Boise State so much success. Little did we know the mastermind of that offense was actually offensive coordinator Chris Petersen. 

So when Hawkins moved to Colorado and proceeded to start his son over better players the Broncos went all the way to a BCS bowl and won it.  Much of the same came from coaches past, Dirk Koetter to Arizona State, and Houston Nutt to Arkansas.

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Some are saying that when Joe Paterno leaves Penn State, Chris Petersen would be the obvious choice.  How do you follow someone like Joe Paterno?  Those are huge orthotic shoes to fill, and if Penn State has two bad seasons Petersen goes the way of Hawkins.

Coach Petersen's style is much different than that of the old programs. He doesn't stir up trouble, he doesn't chest thump, and he doesn't cave to the administration and the fans. Something that won't be tolerated at a more "storied" program.

He recruits players into his system calling them "our kind of guy." He doesn't need the best athletes in the world to win; he needs the best for Boise State.  Kellen Moore was recruited by Oregon State, Washington State, Idaho, and Eastern Washington.  Now any program in the country would love to have him. 

That is what Chris Petersen does and will continue to do and he will continue to win. When he won his first BCS bowl the current Broncos team was not even out of high school so it's surely not just a single "special" recruiting class.  When Kellen Moore graduates the Broncos may (and I use that term lightly) have a rebuild year, but they will be back on top by the next season.   

All of this doesn't mean Petersen is comfortable in Boise. Make no mistake. He is one of the driving factors behind the program's expansion. When Stanford came calling, Chris Petersen used that as motivation for a stalled Bronco Stadium expansion that broke ground in July and will lead to better facilities and increasing seating capacity to 50,000. Mark my words that stadium will be named after him when his tenure at Boise State is over.  

He didn't do that to make more money or to advance his position though. It was for the students and the fans. It was so he could bring in better recruits and repay the community, and the city loves him for what he does. I would argue Chris Petersen's relationship with the Boise community is better than just about every other coaches in their hometowns.  He has no interest in bigger paychecks and bigger schools.

Though he is still young and may look to a different challenge once his children are grown he will be the first to tell you that, based on his three predecessors, the grass isn't always greener, or in this case, bluer on the other side.

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