Coach's Q&A: Chris Petersen

Boise State's coach shares his love of Idaho and thoughts on the BCS

June 13, 2007

By Steve Brauntuch

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Steve Brauntuch

Steve Brauntuch is a researcher for CSTV and contributor to
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When Dan Hawkins left Boise State for Colorado after the 2005 season, the Broncos promoted a young, no-name offensive coordinator to become their next head coach.  Thirteen wins, a BCS berth and a host of trick plays later, Chris Petersen is one of the hottest names in college coaching.  He was the first coach in more than a century to win 13 games in his first season as a Division I-A head coach.  He was the first Broncos coach to win the Bear Bryant Award for national coach of the year.  And he was the mastermind behind one of the most incredible bowl game victories in the history of the sport.


So what will Petersen do for an encore?  With star running back Ian Johnson back for another campaign (fresh off his engagement), Boise State will look to make it six WAC titles in a row and maybe even sneak into the national title picture.  It will be an uphill battle just to get national attention, but Petersen says, contrary to what some people think about him leaving the Smurf Turf for greener pastures, he wouldn't have it any other way.




SB: You guys have created something of a WAC dynasty at Boise State in recent years.  What do you think has been the biggest key to your success?


CP: I don't think it is any one specific thing.  I think it's a multitude of reasons, and that's why it makes it so much harder to pinpoint exactly what's going on.  I think probably first and foremost, we've just gotten the right players for us. I think we've done a nice job in recruiting the best players that fit our system, the profile that we're looking for, and [players] who have really bought into our system over here.


SB: Has recruiting players from around the country to come play in Boise been a challenge for you?


CP: No, not really.  We pick and choose our battles wisely, and we look for the right fit and somebody that has an interest in us and knows a little bit about us. And usually when the kids do have some interest going into the recruiting process, if they haven't been here and they come up and see Boise, Idaho, they love it.  It's just so much different than the perception that's probably out there.  I was just talking to a kid and saying, "Hey, if you haven't been here, you probably have this vision of a bunch of potato fields."  Boise, Idaho isn't anything close to that.


SB: When did you first decide that you wanted to go into coaching?


CP: My father was a junior college football coach, and so I grew up around it.  So I really knew that I did not want to be a coach growing up... but after I got done playing football at UC Davis, we had a JV program there that the coaches had me coach.  And I was really kind of doing it on the side, because I was going to graduate school and I wanted to do something different.  But once I started coaching and actually doing that with the coaches at Davis, I kind of got hooked.  So it really wasn't until I was just done finishing playing at Davis that I decided I wanted to do this.


SB: You were a very successful quarterback at UC Davis.  What did you learn in your time playing there that has helped you become a better teacher for quarterback prospects you are now coaching?


CP: Well, I think the main thing is that the coaches there really explained the game to me and made it make sense.  I think before, as a high school player, you'd be so up and down as a know, a receiver would be open.  Sometimes he wouldn't be.  I wouldn't really know why.  Sometimes I'd have a good game, sometimes I wouldn't - I wouldn't really know why.  And once they really detailed it and explained coverages and route combinations and who you're looking at and strengths and weaknesses, then everything started to make sense.  So what I really learned is that those guys were really great teachers, and that's what I've tried to take out of Davis.  Everything we do here is to be great teachers of this system.


SB: You were the offensive coordinator at Boise State before you became the head coach.  On average, how big is your playbook each week entering a game?


CP: I'll tell you this - we do a lot of different things, and our playbook when we start the season and in spring football is fairly extensive.  But one of the things that we kind of pride ourselves on going into a game is not having a big playbook.  We do a good job of game planning and narrowing things down and not having too much overage so these kids have to learn so many things that we're not even going to call in the game.  And so I know a lot of people kind of pride themselves on having this humongous playbook, having all these plays going into a game.  We don't - we narrow it down so these kids can manage it and learn it and execute it.


SB: Now that Boise State has become a national contender, have you found it more difficult to schedule non-conference games?  Are you having trouble getting home-and-homes with BCS teams?


CP: Yeah, we've kind of always had problems getting home-and-homes.  I mean, people are always good about having us play at their place, but we want the favor returned.  And our athletic director [Gene Bleymaier] does all the scheduling, and he's working at that all the time, because it's not easy.  There are not a lot of windows open anyway, and when it is, to get a team to come back and repay the favor, it's a challenge.


SB: The BCS has actually been pretty beneficial for you guys - you probably wouldn't have been in the Fiesta Bowl without the BCS system.  That being said, what are your thoughts on the BCS as opposed to a playoff system?


CP: I like it.  I really do.  I've been around football for a long time, growing up with it.  I grew up with the bowl system, and I really like the bowl system.  And so I just don't see the clear-cut answer yet to the playoff system.  If it would have been the plus-one, we still wouldn't have been that plus-one team going to play for the national championship.  So now all of a sudden you create a bracket, and you know, you're always going to have that debate and that argument.  And I can see both sides of the fence on this issue, but to tell you the truth, I like the bowl system.  I really do.


SB: But unless you guys are absolutely perfect during the season, the bowl system makes it incredibly difficult for you to get into the national title picture.  A team like USC can still lose a game or two and stay on the national map.  Does it bother you to go into the season knowing that you're at a huge disadvantage when it comes to competing for a national title?


CP: No, because I think this: I think as our conference gets better, I think when we play better people down the road, I think when our facilities continue to grow and this program continues to change, I think that situation will change for us.  You know, there's not much error in any of this.  USC can lose one game.  We can lose no games, so neither one of us has much error as you go through your season.  I just try not to get caught up in those situations.  We just worry so much about ourselves and playing to the best of our ability, and we really believe that if that happens, then good things are going to happen for Boise State no matter what the system is.  And that's what happened to us last year.  People were going, `What about getting into that national championship game?'  Well, we wouldn't have been in it anyway!  They would have chosen somebody else with a plus-one, unless you set up a big old bracket of 16 or eight teams.  And then maybe they would have put us in.  I don't know.


SB: You've only been head coach at Boise State for one season.  But have you been tempted yet to leave for a coaching position at a BCS conference or even in the NFL?


CP: No.  I haven't been tempted.  This is a great place, and you know, you never know what the future holds.  You really don't.  So I'm not going to be one of those guys to say, `Hey, I'm never leaving here,' and then tomorrow you're going, he just said he wasn't leaving, and there he goes.  But you know, I said this when I came from the University of Oregon as the receivers coach.  I wouldn't have left Oregon for any other place other than Boise, Idaho.  And they were looking at me going, yeah right, and I meant that from the bottom of my heart.  And I said last year when I became the head coach - I wouldn't have become the head coach at any other place in the country other than Boise State.  And that's how I feel about this place.  Now, you never know how things change down the road for you.  But those two statements are 100 percent accurate and true.


SB: The reason it comes up is because you guys fight an uphill battle for national attention and scheduling and working toward a national championship.  It wouldn't be as big of a struggle at a BCS conference school, where you already receive more national attention.  Does the thought of having a more level playing field at another school appeal to you?


CP: I just think that we're getting the notoriety that we need and like right now.  So if we keep taking care of business like we have been, this place continues to change every year in a positive way.  And it's because we've been winning our games and taking care of business.  And if we do that, it's going to get even better.  And every year, there's more national attention on us.  That's not our No. 1 mission, to get national attention on us.  It's really not.  It's to play the best that we can play and maximize our potential and do all those kinds of things.  And when we do that, the rest is going to follow, and I think the last few years have really proven that out.  It doesn't happen with the snap of your finger overnight.  It is a process, and I can see the process happening here.


SB: Do you feel the blue turf gives you an unfair home field advantage by distracting your opponents?


CP: I don't think necessarily the color blue does, but I do think we have a home field advantage.  We have some of the best fans in the nation, and they're some of the loudest.  We don't play in the biggest stadium around, but when you come into our 30,000 seat stadium, you think you're in a 60,000 seat stadium as loud as these people are.


SB: How many plays in your playbook have you stolen from the movie Little Giants?


CP: First of all, I don't even know what the movie Little Giants is.  I'll tell you this - I will go rent it, and I might be stealing something from it then.


SB: So that means the Fumblerooski is not in your playbook?


CP: It would be if it was legal in college football.