When Boise State became an FBS (formerly Division I-A) team in 1996, they yearned to be one of the big boys of college football. The school had success in its past, even winning a Junior College National Championship in 1958 and an FCS National Championship in 1980, but was willing to put any previous achievements on the line in hopes of competing in the highest level of college football.
Their transition started off on the wrong foot, as they went through three coaches in three years and were losing support quickly. But in 1998, Dirk Koetter took over the program and posted a record of 6-5. The momentum picked up in the offseason, and Broncos fans developed moderate expectations. Koetter went above and beyond those expectations, going 10-3 and 10-2, respectively, in his last two years.
Dan Hawkins picked up where Koetter left off. After an 8-4 season, Hawkins’s team went 12-1, winning 11 straight games and finishing the year ranked No. 15 in the AP poll. Seemingly overnight, the new team with a blue field from Idaho had burst onto the scene.
And oh, did the media take notice.
Hawkins’s teams continued to rattle off one fantastic season after another. ESPN loved every second of their historic rise because they were the first non-BCS team to have sustained periods of winning. They were painted in such a light that they looked like a Cinderella story for the ages — no big athletic budget, an intimate field with blue turf and players who played simply for the love of the game.
Even though Hawkins’s teams never slew any giants, he had an absolutely astounding record of 61-5 in his five years at the school. He set the foundation for what is perhaps the most riveting single season for any team in FBS football history.
Chris Peterson, who had been the offensive coordinator at Boise State for the previous five seasons, took over for Hawkins after the 2005 regular season and went to work immediately to brand his own type of football. The Broncos had already been labeled as a perennial powerhouse by the media, but Petersen felt slighted by the annual lack of a big bowl invite. Soon, however, he began embracing the underdog role. He hyped his players up every week by convincing them that they not only needed to win, but win handily to silence their detractors.
And win they did.
The 2006 Boise State team won 12 games in a row, beating teams by an average score of 40-16 in the process. It set them up for a colossal showdown with storied football powerhouse Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. In a game for the ages, The Broncos defeated the Sooners 43-42 in overtime on a Statue of Liberty play for a two-point conversion. Scout.com rated this as the second-best finish in the history of college football.
The entire country rejoiced. For the first time ever, a non-automatic qualifying school won a BCS bowl. The results in the college football world were incredible. The discussion about implementing a playoff, not bowl, system intensified solely because of Boise’s Fiesta Bowl victory.
Boise State has continued its success with Petersen, currently owning a record of 62-5, another BCS bowl win and triumphs over powerhouses like Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia.
But, they are not the little school in Idaho that the media has portrayed them to be. In an offseason riddled with scandals at high-profile schools like Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon, and Miami (Fl.), they have slipped under the radar. This summer, the NCAA found Boise State guilty of lack of institutional control for violations in five sports, including football.
The football violations alone are staggering. The NCAA claims that 63 prospective student athletes received illegal benefits, ranging from recruiting to impermissible housing and even transportation violations in the football program for five years.
Contrast that with Ohio State. Five student athletes, including Terrelle Pryor, were charged with exchanging memorabilia for tattoos. The last time I took a math class, I learned 63 is much greater than five, but you wouldn’t know it since ESPN had daily front-page coverage about Ohio State while letting Boise State fall under the radar completely.
When I search for “Ohio State” on ESPN, six of the first 10 articles are somehow related to this latest Ohio State charity scandal. When I do the same for Boise State, I get only one article about their recent severe punishment.
The media simply cannot have it both ways. Boise State is either an elite team that deserves the same scrutiny that more established schools receive, or they are truly a mid-major that doesn’t deserve the same hyped media coverage — for both on-field and off-field performance.
But since the Broncos got away relatively unscathed while the aforementioned schools took big public relations hits, you could say they now have a few more victories over BCS schools under their belts.
Matt Emch is a sophomore in the College. Riding the Pine appears every Friday.