Boise, ID

MEMO to Football Coaches: It’s the Program, Not YOU!

Stuart Gustafson

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This might come as a surprise to many of the million-dollar college football coaches out there: Your team is successful because of the ingrained program, NOT because of YOU! Oh, sure. I can hear some of them screaming and hollering like the crybabies who run after the refs who’ve just thrown a flag against their team. But the reality is, and has been for a long time, that the success of a team has more to do with the tradition and the mindset of the players in the program than it has to do with the head football coach.

Case in point: Boise State University Broncos. According to 247sports.com, the Broncos had the best winning percentage of all college teams from 2000 through 2019 with a record of 219-43, a winning percentage of 83.6%. Ohio State was second at 217-43 (83.5%), and Oklahoma was third at 219-49 (81.7%). One of the Sooners’ more embarrassing losses (to them, anyway) was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl where the “Statue of Liberty” play became a two-point TD conversion in overtime to give the Broncos a 43-42 victory to cap off an undefeated season at 12-0.

Certainly a contributing factor to their winning program is the fact that Kellen Moore, a starting quarterback for all four years at BSU, is the all-time leader in wins for a college quarterback at 50-3. And his three losses included two one-point losses to TCU, and an overtime loss to a nationally-ranked Nevada team.

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Back to the coaches. Obviously with a record of 219-43 in twenty years means having coaches with some pretty awesome records.

· Dirk Koetter was head coach from 1998-2000; he was 10-2 (83.3%) in 2000, winning the Big West Championship. Koetter left BSU for Arizona State where he was 40-34 (54.1%) in six seasons. He’s been in the NFL since 2007.

· Dan Hawkins was promoted from Offensive Coordinator to Head coach with Koetter’s departure. He was 53-11 (82.8%) in five seasons, and left for a lucrative head coaching position at Colorado, where he was fired after going 19-39 (32.8%) in four-plus seasons.

· Chris Peterson was hired by Hawkins as Offensive Coordinator in 2001, and became head coach when Hawkins departed for Colorado. Peterson was 92-12 (88.5%) in his eight seasons at BSU before departing for Washington and a minimum fifty percent increase in pay. He was 55-26 (67.9%) in his six seasons as the Huskies head coach.

· Bryan Harsin was a Boise native who was also a BSU quarterback. In taking the head coaching position at BSU, Harsin called it a “dream position” because he could move home and coach his alma mater, the first in BSU history. He went 69-19 (78.4%) in his seven seasons (2020 was abbreviated due to the coronavirus) with BSU. He resigned abruptly after the Broncos lost the Mountain West Championship game to San José State in December 2020, and accepted the head coaching position at Auburn, where his new team was trounced 35-19 by Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl. His record at Auburn now stands at 0-1 (0%). Good start, coach.

It will probably sound cynical, but most coaches say something like, “It’s not about the money” when they depart one program for another offering them much more in pay, bonuses, etc. Of course they work for money; who doesn’t? I used to, and when I did switch jobs, it typically was for more money. But I never said, “Oh, I’m leaving here for another job just because they have nicer furniture, or there’s a better deli nearby.” No, clearly it was for the money, and those in the high-tech world knew that was what you had to do to move up.

But when coaches say something as foolish as that it really makes you wonder what they think of the people who hear it. Do the coaches really think we’re that stupid and we’ll just believe them that it’s NOT about the money? Come on! If they do, then maybe they got hit in the head one too many times when they were on the field in uniform.

If They’re So Good …..

Good question, if the coaches are so good at coaching then why …

· did Dirk Koetter go from 83.3% to 54.1%

· or Dan Hawkins from 82.8% to 32.8%

· or Chris Peterson from 88.5% to 67.9%

· or [drum roll, please] Bryan Harsin from 78.4% to 0%????

Remember: It’s the Program, not the Coach

Most of us know that “Success breeds success.” It’s a whole lot easier for a winning coach to recruit top-tier talent than it is for a perennially losing staff. And it’s also a fact that even good players don’t always get drafted by a top team. While the “Blue turf” at BSU has its own mystique, I don’t think any players sign with BSU for that reason alone. No; it’s because the program is well-founded in discipline as well as innovation.

So what’s next?

Well, the Broncos need a new head coach, and two familiar names that are being tossed around are Andy Avalos and Kellen Moore (yes, that guy who was the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, while at BSU). Avalos was a linebacker at BSU for four years, and was an assistant coach for the Broncos for six years. He is currently the Defensive Coordinator at Oregon.

Despite his unsurpassable 50-3 record, Moore went undrafted out of college, signed with the Detroit Lions, eventually moving to the Dallas Cowboys. He started only two games, both losses, but his knowledge and his work ethic impressed Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones who hired him first as QB coach, and now as Offensive Coordinator. Kellen is clearly the emotional favorite choice here in Boise.

Whom should BSU hire?

It doesn’t matter. The fans love Kellen Moore, but that doesn’t guarantee winning seasons and conference championships. Andy Avalos has more coaching experience, but we’ve seen that even a great head coaching record at one school doesn’t lead to continued success at the next one.

Next year’s Boise State Broncos football team will do well no matter who is the new head coach: Moore, Avalos, or someone else. The reason is that a well-disciplined program is ingrained into the minds and soul of every member of the football staff, and that carries over to the players. Hiring Moore has one advantage over Avalos or others: more season tickets will be sold (assuming that football fans are once again allowed in the stadium).

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Well, sports fans. Kellen Moore has said he will renew his contract with the Dallas Cowboys as their Offensive Coordinator, thus removing his name from consideration for the BSU job. Personally, I think he’s making a wise decision. That job will open up again in a few years (you’ve seen the cycle of coaches above), but by then, Kellen just might be a Head Coach in the NFL. He’s that good!

Remember: It’s the Program, not the Coach

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Articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about travel, relevant local/regional items, some finance. Always with a slant to ask you to think.

Boise, ID
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