I do realize that it’s a faux pas for a person whose work is the written word to care about college football. Well, I was always immune to peer pressure.
Today, my team and alma mater (Washington Huskies) filled their football head coaching vacancy by hiring one of the most coveted coaches in the game: Chris Petersen. Petersen was previously employed as head coach of the Boise State Broncos. He is appreciated, loved, even revered among the BSU fanbase, and with good reason: he took them as high as the stratified Division I-A conference system would allow. He recruited unheralded players and groomed them into NFL talents. There are about twice as many Bronco alumni playing at the next level as there are Huskies. That speaks for itself.
I live in Boise.
I underestimated the Bronco faithful, and for that I apologize. Fair’s fair.
After watching the Cal-Berkeley fanbase’s reaction a couple of years back to our hiring away of a couple of their assistants–they went through all the Stages of Grief, but tarried long in Anger–I wasn’t expecting much warmth of the good kind. I anticipated rage, fury, loathing, wearing of potato sackcloth and ashes, rending of garments, weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Reaction on the BSU fanboards was about 90% this: “We knew it could happen. Thanks Pete for every great memory and win. Go Broncos and then go Huskies.” Not what I’d expected. There are programs whose fans would be sending the coach and his family death threats over such a thing, not wishing them well.
As it turns out, I had occasion to be out and about today, and while I didn’t want to wash anyone’s face in their grief, my windbreaker is purple and gold with prominent lettering on back. So if anyone wanted to give me some spillover, they’d get their chance. I don’t have a desire to rub anything in, but you can’t case the colors.
I underestimated the BSU fanbase. Of course, everyone had a reaction, but a lot of it was wanting to know how I felt about the hire. They took it like fans of a power program, not like crybabies. It was the good kind of college football banter, not the bad kind. They’re good fans, and while there may be some bandwagon falloff, they’ll be all right. When I wished them well, I found myself meaning it.
And, Broncos, if you end up hiring our prize DC Justin Wilcox to replace Petersen, well, we can hardly blame you. If that happens, I hope we behave as well as you have. But thanks for showing me that you have reached a point that some Pac-12 and SEC programs still don’t grasp: the ability of a longtime winner to be gracious in the face of a setback. I hope the new playoff system gives you a fair opportunity to shoot for the big prize. I’ve always felt that situation was fundamentally unfair.
Good luck, Bronco Nation.