10 Questions With: Boise State head coach Chris Petersen
We've talked to a lot of FBS head coaches in our 10 Questions With series, but none that already have their spot reserved inside the College Football Hall of Fame. In Chris Petersen's tenure as the head coach at Boise State, the Broncos have compiled an 84-8 record and, with only four conferences losses in seven seasons, have won or tied for the conference title in all seven tries.
We talked with Petersen about managing expectations, the different ways Boise State has spread its legacy through college football and his favorite reading material in the latest edition of 10 Questions With.
To view past installments, please visit the archives.
1) How often do coaches from lower levels reach out to you?
Not so much me but our staff. We kind of walk that fine line with our time because we do have high school staffs coming through in spring football and it so depends how much time we have because we're still trying to get our things done. So, a combination of high school guys and sometimes some of the other schools will want to stop in and see us.
2) How involved were you, if at all, in the decision to ultimately stay in the Mountain West over joining the Big East?
All of those decisions really come from our president on down through our athletic director. They certainly seek our opinion in terms of what we think. We're excited in the Mountain West. I think everybody here at Boise State thinks it's a much better fit in many ways.
3) You play in the Mountain West, all our bowl games have been in the western part of the U.S. and, obviously, the vast majority from your roster is from the West. Is part of the strategy in scheduling season-opening games against schools like Virginia Tech, Georgia and Michigan State to get some exposure east of the Rocky Mountains?
Not necessarily. Scheduling is tricky. It seems like we always the last few years have opened with a pretty darn good football team and when you get invited back to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic or to open up with a team like Virginia Tech and this year we have Washington, those are good things for our program so we've done that. It's not so much, "We're going to do this because of geography," more so of just playing good teams.
3a) Do games like that serve as a carrot for your players to maybe do that one extra rep in off-season workouts and fall camp?
We really try to focus on ourselves for the first part. Just getting better, working hard, establishing all those important values to us. You get closer to the season and the opponent starts to become more and more important as you hone in. But there's no doubt when you open with a team like Washington that our players pay attention to that very closely. They know what a great program they are and all the good players they have.
4) What is your strategy for handling the NCAA's new recruiting proposals?
The main thing that I think everybody's hoping to do is figure out what the rules are. There's a lot of talk about changing the recruiting rules of when you can start recruiting younger guys in high school and now that's been tabled. That changes how many people you're going to hire on your staff, and there's been talk about limiting the number of staff members. I think the main thing is I just want to get all on the same page and figure out where we're going as we move forward.
5) Do you get a sense of validation when guys like Bryan Harsin and Brent Pease go on to find success at other places?
Sean Kugler's at UTEP and he was with us as well. It's great. One of our objectives here is to help guys achieve their goals, whether it's our players or our coaches. All those guys were great Broncos and did a really good job so it's good to help them achieve all the goals that they're after.
6) Speaking of validation, what do you think when you hear other schools say they want to be "the Boise of the MAC" or "the Boise of the Sun Belt", or are you even aware of that?
We don't think like that. All we're trying to do is the very best we can and as corny as that sounds and as cliche as that sounds, we don't really worry about that. We're not talking about getting to a BCS game again and all those things. We're just trying to right now focus on ourselves and get as good as we can possibly can. The kids are working hard in the summer and we'll do that in fall camp. When we get close to our season we'll hone in on our opponent and just try to play the best we can and improve every single week. I think we all set our preseason goals of what we try to get done but once we do that it's really just about playing hard and trying to get better each week.
7) After 84 wins in seven seasons, how do you help everyone in your program deal with the expectations that have grown with your success?
Expectations can really hurt and they can really help you and sometimes people's expectations get out of whack. Our standards, I think, are very high and I think our expectations are very high. But our standards and expectations really have to do with doing the very best we can do. If we play and we play well and we win, we'll be satisfied. If we play well and someone's better than us, we tip our hat to them and we move on. That's what I think it's really all about. As your program grows and it does well and expectations keep getting moved forward, that's a problem and that's hard to deal with that outside noise. We won 11 games and some people were talking about, "Well, we'll be back next year." Winning 11 games is pretty good. We try not to get caught up in this bowl game or exactly how many wins, it's just about doing the best we can with the people that we have in this program and really focusing on ourselves as coaches, as administrators, just like our players do. We're all in this together. If we all have that mindset of improving and doing the best we can each and every day, usually the product turns out pretty good.
8) Is that something you stress to the players in case, God forbid, you ever win nine games in a season instead of 11?
The main thing is, there's no higher standard or expectations in Boise, Idaho, than are in our football building. Our players get at the end of the day it's about the scoreboard. They understand that. We really try to change their focus to just getting better and being the best that they can be. Like I said, if we play a team that's better than us, they've just got better players, they played better but our guys really did what they can do then you tip your hat. There's been games we played and won and haven't played that well. We're not satisfied with that. So it's really about not getting caught up in the wins and losses although we understand at the end of the day that's what it's all about, but that's not where our focus is. Our focus is just about taking care of each other, working hard and getting better.
9) What does it make you think when you see colored fields popping up at places like Eastern Washington and Central Arkansas? Obviously there are a lot more important things out there when it comes to winning football games but at the same time, they wouldn't do it if they didn't think it worked.
(Laughs) If it were up to me, there'd be all green fields and one blue field in football and we should just leave it at that.
10) Do you like to read in your free time and, if so, what do you read?
I read a lot and I usually have a couple books going at one time and I'll even go back and re-read books. I've got a couple books that are stacked up. Right now I'm reading Joe Ehrmann's Inside Out Coaching, I've already read it and I"m reading it again. I'm going to read Tom Coughlin's book this summer, Phil Jackson's book and then I'll probably read about three or four others as well.