Tale of two intertwined coaches

Today I harken back to two old Statesman articles on the lead combatants in the “Friends Bowl” tomorrow night. Today I harken back to two old Statesman articles on the lead combatants in the “Friends Bowl” tomorrow night on the blue turf. One was written by none other than Mike Prater in 1999, headlined, “Harsin: A true team player.” At the time, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin was a fifth-year senior quarterback for the Broncos. He walked on at BSU when Pokey Allen was coach in 1995, and he suffered with his teammates as Pokey died from cancer the following year. Harsin saw it all in his five years, from the 2-10 season while Tom Mason was interim coach in 1996 to the Big West championship and Humanitarian Bowl win over Louisville in 1999—the mountaintop for a senior class that had been through entirely too much. Current defensive coordinator Marcel Yates was in that group, too. It helps explain why they’re indelibly tied to the Broncos.

Prater’s story details Harsin’s star-crossed playing career at Boise State. He was awarded a scholarship by Allen after his redshirt year, but he broke his leg as a sophomore after Houston Nutt had become coach. Any dream he had of ever starting for the Broncos were essentially dashed. What did Harsin say going into the final game of his career? “I’m not bitter about anything that’s gone on,” he said. “I’m above that. Sometimes you get a break, sometimes you don’t. This is how it’s turned out and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.” Harsin threw one touchdown pass in his career—against UCLA in the Rose Bowl in the opener when he was a senior under Dirk Koetter. The Broncos didn’t know it at the time, but the Golden Era began that night, and it continues to this day.

Toward the end of Prater’s feature he wrote about Harsin’s lifetime goals: “He wants to be a coach or be an offensive coordinator at the Division I level.” Again, that was November, 1999. Now Harsin starts his second season as head coach and his 12th overall as a member of his alma mater’s coaching staff. He spent 10 of those Boise State staffer seasons working with current Washington coach Chris Petersen, five as tight ends coach when Petersen was offensive coordinator, and five more as Petersen’s O-coordinator. One of the first things Coach Pete did when he was hired as the Broncos’ head coach in December, 2005, was name the 29-year-old Harsin as his right-hand man on offense.

The other old Statesman article is a lengthy piece written by Chadd Cripe during spring football in 2006, introducing Boise State fans to their new coach—who at that time was still a mystery to most. There’s a sidebar that reminds you what a great offensive mind Petersen brought to the table. Example: the Broncos averaged 42 rushing touchdowns a year during his final four seasons as offensive coordinator despite what some labeled as a pass-happy attack. There’s another story on Petersen’s competitive streak (which will be out in full force Friday night). Plus a chronology of his playing days (he went 19-3 as a starter at UC Davis) and his relationships with mentors like Hawkins, Dirk Koetter, Mike Bellotti and Davis legend Jim Sochor. The thread throughout is what kind of a person he is.

Not to be forgotten is the scare Petersen and his wife, Barb, had when their youngest son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1999. Sam was only 13 months old at the time, and Petersen was the wide receivers coach at Oregon. When Dan Hawkins offered him the Boise State offensive coordinator’s post in December, 2000, Petersen was hesitant. He and Barb wanted to make sure the Boise medical community was going to be properly equipped for Sam’s ongoing needs, and it was—and the family spent 13 years in the city.

Many thought Petersen would never want to venture into a Power 5 conference fishbowl, and he passed on a handful of opportunities over the years. But he felt the time was finally right after the 2013 season, and when Steve Sarkisian left Washington for USC, he saw the Huskies as a fit. Petersen has always had an admirer in Utah State coach Matt Wells, who appreciates what he learned from spending time with Petersen and has sustained the Aggies’ success in Logan. At Mountain West Media Days, I asked Wells what he thought of Coach Pete’s challenge in Seattle. “In my opinion, I don’t think there’s any chance Chris won’t get it done up there,” said Wells. “I would like to think that staff is a model—the things they do on and off the field. They’ll win. They’ll win at a high level.”

Idaho’s only logical response to the cloud placed over its football future by Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson yesterday is to win this year. The Vandals have a four-year deal with the Sun Belt as a football-only member, but Benson reiterated yesterday while announcing the addition of Coastal Carolina to the conference that the status of Idaho and New Mexico State beyond 2017 will be reviewed after this season. If the NCAA approves championship games for conferences with only 10 teams this winter, that could affect how the Sun Belt views its future. Less might be more. The Vandals need to create equity with their Sun Belt mates by beating them this fall—and winning non-conference games like the season opener tomorrow night in the Kibbie Dome against Ohio.

One game in, the College of Idaho already has its first Frontier Conference Player of the Week this season. It’s on offense, as J.J. Hyde is honored after rushing for 85 yards and three back-breaking touchdowns in the Coyotes’ 40-28 win over Eastern Oregon last Saturday. It wasn’t only the former Vallivue Falcon who put the hurt on the Mountaineers on the ground, though. Kyle Merritt rushed for 104 yards and another touchdown for the Yotes, and starting quarterback Teejay Gordon ran for 57. The Coyotes host Pacific University Saturday at Simplot Stadium, a rematch of the game that broke the C of I football program’s 37-year hiatus a year ago.

The visiting Hillsboro Hops broke open a 3-3 game against the Boise Hawks last night with a run in the sixth inning, three in the seventh, and single runs again in the eighth and ninth on the way to a 9-5 victory. Hawks manager Frank Gonzales can be forgiven if he was checking big league scores on his phone early in the game. His son, Marco, was called up by the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday for a spot start versus the Washington Nationals. The younger Gonzales lasted only 2 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits (the Cards went on to win, 8-5).

At PGATour.com there’s a photo of 25 golfers standing behind a Web.com logo and grinning ear-to-ear as they hold up PGA Tour cards. The real thing. One of them is Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge, who won the Greater Dallas Open in June and has been pretty consistent since. He finished the regular season No. 14 on the Web.com Tour money list—the top 25 were guaranteed tour cards. Aldridge will still play the Web.com Tour Finals beginning next week, as positions on the priority ranking list are still at stake. That’s what is used to set PGA Tour fields each week.

The Idaho Steelheads have one more player aboard and another they’re hopeful of landing as training camp approaches in about a month. The Steelheads have agreed to terms with forward Andre Bouvet-Morrissette, who has played the last three seasons for the ECHL’s Evansville Icemen. The 24-year-old Quebec native has also skated 19 games at the AHL level. And the Steelies have acquired the rights to defenseman James Martin from the Fort Wayne Komets in exchange for the rights to forward Alex Belzile. Martin was an ECHL All-Star last season. Belzile was no slouch for Idaho, racking up 69 points in 63 games last season, including 28 goals.

This Day In Sports…September 2, 1955, 60 years ago today:

The late Ernie Banks blasts his 40th home run of the year to propel the Chicago Cubs past the St. Louis Cardinals, 12-2. That set the record for homers by a shortstop, which Banks would increase to 44 by season’s end. In 1958, the future Hall of Famer would break that mark by hitting 48 homers. And that record would stand until 2001, when Alex Rodriguez snapped it with 52. A-Rod then bettered that by clubbing 57 dingers in 2002, tainted as they may have been.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)