Monday, December 9, 2013.
The breakup between Chris Petersen and Boise State has been particularly hard for the fan base to take. It goes beyond the 92-12 record and the championships and the Fiesta Bowl wins. “He was one of us,” one fan told me Friday after hearing the news that Petersen was headed to Washington. I don’t think fans have ever felt quite like that about any previous Boise State coach, not even Pokey Allen, nor Tony Knap. In his 13 years here, Petersen became the consummate Boisean and Idahoan. Probably the most recognizable of any around the country. A Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce dream. I only wish Petersen had made some kind of statement to Bronco Nation in the 24 hours after his hiring by UW. Fans feel like they’ve lost part of the family. I would be shocked if he didn’t address that later today during his introductory press conference in Seattle.
What I said just last Thursday about Boise State football and Gonzaga basketball? Well, that has been rendered slightly irrelevant. “The Boise State football program has the same stability, culture and support as the Gonzaga basketball program,” I wrote. Well, the stability has been shaken. The sustaining of the culture will be up to the new regime. And the support is up to the university and the community, and it is essential. Mark Few is still at Gonzaga. Chris Petersen isn’t in Boise anymore. Now we await the rest of the story to see if parallels can still be drawn.
Recruiting is the toughest part of this process. Boise State had 13 verbal commitments Friday morning for the 2014 recruiting class. It quickly went down to 12 with the reneg by defensive end Jalen Johnson. And there are sure to be more. Recruits are wowed on their official visits to Boise. They love the city, love the campus, love the people, love the players, love the blue turf, and love the energy Bronco Nation brings. But in the end, they (and their parents) love Chris Petersen. That’s just the way it is. These are Petersen’s recruits. That’s where the greatest amount of agony will be realized between now and National Letter of Intent Day.
And it’s recruiting that will fast-forward the process of replacing Petersen. Any of the three prominent names out there, Bryan Harsin, Justin Wilcox and Dirk Koetter, would keep the brotherhood intact. The most intriguing name is Koetter, the Broncos’ coach from 1998-2000 and the guy who kicked off the “Golden Era.” Serving as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons this season can’t be as much fun as it was last year. And he loves those summers he spends in Boise and McCall. The question with Koetter is, does he, really, really want to do this? If he really, really does, he’s a viable possibility. On the other hand, the new coach could be somebody we haven’t thought of. No telling how many interesting feelers Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle has received.
Linebackers coach Bob Gregory, named interim coach by Boise State Friday, has interviewed for the head coaching job. Gregory would keep the brotherhood going, too. He returned to the Broncos before the 2010 season, catching Cal off-guard by resigning as the Bears’ defensive coordinator. Gregory essentially wanted to get out of the Bay Area rat race. If he doesn’t get the Boise State top job, he may be faced with a decision on another rat race, albeit in a much better situation than the one he was in at Berkeley. Offensive line coach Chris Strausser also interviewed. He’s been on the Boise State staff with Petersen all of the past 13 years except for one.
Turns out Boise State is going to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl for a Christmas Eve matchup against Oregon State. It’s mainly about the opponent, and the Broncos have landed a Pac-12 team. But it’s also about the location—the trip to Hawaii is at least some consolation for what this team has gone through the past 72 hours. The other time Boise State played in the Hawaii Bowl it was also about the location, as the Broncos turned down an offer to stay and play in Boise for a visit to Oahu a year after their first Fiesta Bowl. But it was too much about the location and not enough about the game in 2007, and they fell behind East Carolina 38-14 before a furious rally fell short in a 41-38 loss.
The first thing the San Diego State Aztecs probably did when they learned they were headed to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl yesterday was look up Boise’s weather. It was not a Chamber of Commerce day in the City of Trees. Advantage, University of Buffalo. But who knows what it’ll be like December 21 when SDSU and the Bulls play on the first day of bowl season. This bowl has never had a day like yesterday (or today) in its previous 16 editions. No matter how cold it is, will the reception be cold for the Aztecs, the team that poured icy water on Boise State’s 2012 and 2013 seasons? San Diego State coach Rocky Long will try to diffuse any hard feelings. Ain’t his fault.
It's too bad the Chris Petersen move is overshadowing a rather momentus basketball event tomorrow night, Boise State’s much-anticipated game at Kentucky. The Broncos don't have a good track record against ranked teams, but this isn't about the past—it's about the here and now. They're 6-36 all-time versus ranked foes and 2-and-19 on the road, and that's where they face the Wildcats, at Adolph Rupp Arena on ESPN. Boise State has never beaten a top 10 or top 5 team. But it did beat No. 11 last year, and it happened on the road, the 80-67 win at Creighton keyed by Derrick Marks' 35 points. The Broncos shot 60 percent from the field in Omaha, and that would be just what the doctor ordered tomorrow in Lexington.
Is this a good time for Boise State to be playing Kentucky? Maybe not. The Wildcats lost their second game of the season Friday night, falling to Baylor 67-62 in cavernous AT&T Stadium outside Dallas. It was the first time this season Kentucky has lost a halftime lead. It’ll be interesting to see where UK goes in the Top 25 today—the Wildcats entered the weekend No. 3 in the AP Poll and No. 4 on the Coaches list. Incidentally, you’ve heard all about the four true freshman starting for Kentucky. Who’s the fifth starter? It’s Willie Cauley-Stein—a sophomore.
The Idaho Stampede’s brief tour of New England resulted in two more victories and a 5-0 start for Boise’s D-League franchise. Pierre Jackson had a game for the ages in Friday night’s 117-107 win at Springfield. Jackson poured in 43 points on 15-of-25 shooting from the field. The Stampede’s first-round pick in the D-League Draft added 19 points Saturday night in a 101-90 win at Maine and is now averaging 28½ points per game. Richard Howell scored 30 Saturday versus the Red Claws and pulled down 15 rebounds—he’s averaging 23 points and 12½ boards per game. The Stamps play their first games ever against the expansion Delaware 87ers on the road Wednesday and Thursday.
The end of the Idaho Steelheads’ series against Stockton wasn’t so pleasant, but the middle was entertaining. Austin Fyten, accustomed to scoring goals in the ECHL but without one since returning to the Steelheads a week earlier, turned in a hat trick Friday night in a 4-2 win over the Thunder. Fyten’s third tally came on an uncontested empty-netter with eight seconds left. It was his first hat trick as a pro. Idaho’s 4-3 loss to Stockton Saturday night wasn’t pretty—in more ways than one. The teams were assessed a combined total of 33 penalties, 15 of them in the final 11 minutes of the game and seven of them misconducts of assorted varieties. There were 128 penalty minutes total in the game. Now it’s another rivalry week, as the Alaska Aces come to CenturyLink Arena for three games beginning Wednesday.
Boise’s Maddie Sheils was sitting pretty after the first two rounds of the final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying. She was tied for 13th, with 20 tour cards at stake for the 2014 season. But the Bishop Kelly grad struggled in the final three rounds, shooting 73, 76 and 74 to finish tied for 65th. Sheils will likely look to further refine her game on the Symetra Tour for the second straight season. And the Boise State wrestling team placed three competitors in the top six at the 32nd annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Saturday. The Broncos finished 11th in the 33-team field.
This Day In Sports…December 9, 2006:
Idaho athletic director Rob Spear tells the media that Dennis Erickson is headed for Arizona State, less than a year after his celebrated return to the Vandals. Erickson, who had coached Idaho from 1982-85, was 4-8 in his one season back in Moscow. The lure of the Pac-10 proved to be too much, as he was drawn to ASU to replace the fired Dirk Koetter, the former Boise State coach. Erickson lasted five seasons in Tempe and is now the co-offensive coordinator at Utah.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)