A dear, witty friend of mine once told me that football is like pizza. When it is good, it is really good, and when it is bad, it is still pretty good. I reminded my friend of this after we all learned of coach Chris Petersen’s departure from the Boise State University football team. His Facebook post simply said, “oh no.”
The reason that we can and should remain positive about Coach Pete’s exit is that we love college football. Petersen lit that fire in us in 2006 when he led the Broncos to a 13-0 season. He added fuel to that fire that bowl season by defeating the Oklahoma Sooners in dramatic and historic fashion in the Fiesta Bowl. Thinking about it still gives me goose bumps. I will never forget how that win felt. No true blue Boise State fan will forget it, either. To this day, it is still talked about as one of the greatest games in college football history.
Season after season, we watched the team succeed. We watched Petersen earn 92 wins and only 12 losses during his time at Boise State. Bronco faithful experienced the reality of being a BCS buster and having the longest win streak in the country. Coach Pete gave us a winning reputation, the kind that many programs aim for but cannot achieve. We were fortunate to see more Boise State players drafted into the NFL than ever before. We have seen him build, brick by brick, players, assistant coaches, facilities and even fans into a nation: Bronco Nation.
We saw Coach Pete face challenges in his time here. There were sanctions and troublesome players. There was dealing with the downside of the BCS system. The thing that impressed me so much about Petersen was his poise and grace in handling all of this. He never let the buzz and commotion that was going on outside of the locker room project onto the football field. He had a way of keeping the team focused on football and winning. That is how legacies develop.
Moving forward, which is what we have to do, there are two things that I know for certain.
First, the University of Washington just got themselves a really great football coach and an equally great man. As a BSU alumna and a huge fan of college football, I have enjoyed the ride Bronco Nation has had the last seven years.
It is not an understatement to say that Petersen was the man to put Boise State football on the map. He turned our dreams of football success into reality. Washington called him their dream hire, which could not be more fitting since Coach Pete made our dreams come true.
It should not go without mentioning how Coach Pete contributed to our community. The “Beat Coach Pete” fun run/walk was an annual event to help raise scholarship money for Boise State students. This event was held annually on the day of the spring scrimmage. According to the race website, they have raised nearly $175,000.
Coach Pete stepped up in a major way this fall when he visited a local high school football player who suffered a severe injury. He offered tickets to the next home game for the boy’s entire football team.
Chris Petersen is a stand-up gentleman. The evidence speaks for itself.
Second, Bronco Nation will survive this. Thanks to Coach Pete, a coaching job at Boise State is now a very desirable position. Bryan Harsin returning to Boise State gives me a great deal of hope. Bryan coached our offense for 10 years and was a huge part of our success.
Harsin coached players like Kellen Moore and Ian Johnson. His record as our offensive coordinator is an outstanding 61 wins and only 5 losses. He knows how to win. He is coming into new and beautiful facilities, an expanded stadium, and a fan base that is deeper and more loyal. We will survive this because the university understands the culture of college football and what it means for our community. Coach Harsin comes to the blue turf with big shoes to fill, shoes he is very familiar with, but I have absolute confidence that Boise State football will continue to build on the reputation of success that Coach Pete gave us. We will survive this because we love college football and we love our Broncos. We will continue to don our colors, fly our flags and paint our children’s bedroom walls blue and orange, because we are Bronco Nation.
Shanna Vail is a nurse at Idaho Urologic Institute and has been director of clinical research at IUI for six years.