Headline: Coyle's preparation pays off in hiring process Subhead: Reporter: Brian Murphy Desk: Source: Staff Day: Saturday Dateline: Print Run Date: 12/14/2013 Digital Run Date: Text: Mark Coyle compiled his first list of possible replacements for Boise State football coach Chris Petersenon a flight from Boise to Chicago. On Dec. 1, 2011. The day he was introduced as Boise State's new athletic director. For more than two years, Coyle added to - and adjusted - the list, preparing for a day that no one in Bronco Nation, including President Bob Kustra, wanted to think about. Faced with finally losing Petersen last week, Coyle pulled an Excel spreadsheet out of a secret drawer at his home. He began looking at the 20 names. By noon on Dec. 6, the same day Petersen was named head coach at Washington, Coyle had culled the list to six people. "Then by Saturday (Dec. 7), he was in full mode of contacting people and making calls," Kustra said. The Broncos interviewed all six to replace Petersen, the most successful coach in school history and the person most responsible for the program's national prominence. Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Boise State offensive line coach Chris Strausser and Boise State linebackers coach Bob Gregory met with Coyle, Senior Associate Athletic Director Curt Apsey and Executive Director for NCAA Compliance John Cunningham. "I made the decision who would go on to the next level," Coyle said, meaning a meeting with Kustra. Kustra said he met with "four or five" of the candidates. The interviews started Saturday night. Kustra met with a candidate at 9 p.m. Interviews continued Sunday and Monday. Harsin flew to Boise on Sunday evening. ***
Coyle's list of criteria for the next Boise State coach was varied. He wanted someone honest. He wanted an innovative leader. A hard worker. "Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and work hard, '' he said. Someone committed to student-athletes. "Our student-athletes are very important to me." An incredible recruiter. "That's one thing (Kentucky basketball) coach (John) Calipari taught me: You've got to get the kids." Someone committed to compliance. "I wanted the person to know, whoever we brought in, that's a focus of ours, the compliance side of it." And someone with a sense of urgency. After eight seasons and 92 victories under Petersen, Coyle felt the Broncos needed energy. "This program needs some of that right now. ... The expectations are sky high. I need someone who has a sense of urgency, who is going to embrace that." *** Coyle had never met Harsin, a Boise native and former Boise State quarterback, assistant coach and offensive coordinator. Harsin left the program after the 2010 season to become Texas' co-offensive coordinator. He spent 2013 as the head coach at Arkansas State, where he led the Red Wolves to a 7-5 record and a share of the Sun Belt title. During their first conversation, Coyle and Harsin got one thing out the way quickly: Neither wanted the coach's $1.75 million buyout at Arkansas State to be a problem. That could be worked out later - if Harsin was the best person for the job. Coyle picked up Harsin after midnight and the two chatted. They met again at 6:30 Monday morning at Coyle's home. It was during that meeting that the 37-year-old Harsin talked about having a "fourth-and-1" mentality. Coyle's ears immediately perked up. "That caught my attention," Coyle said. Still, administrators played it cool. Harsin was hoping his meetings in Boise would end with a handshake - and a job offer. Coyle was intent on playing out the process. That meant evaluating each candidate. "I kept reminding myself that, 'Hey, Mark. You have a process in place and stick to that process.' I didn't want to start looking at finances for one guy against another guy. I just wanted to make sure we found the right person," Coyle said.
The Broncos met with additional candidates later Monday after Harsin - worried that he had blown the interview and a chance at his dream job - left for Jonesboro, Ark. As part of his evaluation of Harsin, Coyle called Texas coach Mack Brown, Harsin's boss for two years, and former Boise State players, including Kellen Moore. Coyle, who was an associate athletic director at Kentucky, also called his contacts in the SEC to find out what they thought about the coach at Arkansas State. "Mack Brown had wonderful things to say about him," Coyle said. "Everyone talked about him as this phenomenal offensive mind." *** Kustra recalled Harsin with fondness from his play-calling heroics at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but also from a much-less heralded moment. After Harsin took the Texas job, he called Kustra in the early morning, letting the president know he wasn't leaving because he didn't love Boise State but because he wanted to better prepare himself to be a head coach at Boise State. "I filed that away," Kustra said. When Harsin met with Kustra this week, they immediately recalled that conversation. "I had a plan and I'm here," Harsin told Kustra. Though Coyle repeatedly said, "Harsin is not the head football coach because he's from Boise, Idaho," it is clear that his Boise State ties aided in the selection. Of the six candidates, only one - Frost - was not a former Boise State coach. "That would have been a more difficult challenge," Kustra said of hiring someone without Boise State ties. "I think Mark and I were both in agreement that there would be an edge to somebody that really understood the program. I was reading the blogs and listening to what ex-players were saying. ... One of the things they kept saying is we sure hope it's somebody who understands our system and what we stand for. This is a very different program. It's not a program that grew up the way others did. I think getting someone who was a part of it and helped build it is just an added plus." *** Boise State wrapped up its interviews by the end of Monday. Koetter, the only coach beside Harsin with head-coaching experience, was one of the last candidates to talk with Kustra. Now it was decision time.
On Tuesday morning, Coyle met with Apsey and Cunningham to get their input. During the afternoon, he met with Kustra and provided a detailed assessment of the candidacies of all six interviewees and what they stood for. "We could tell that Bryan's enthusiasm and energy about the job and his storied career here was enough to have him be the lead candidate," Kustra said. Kustra said the choice was Coyle's. "This is an athletic decision and not a presidential decision. He wants to make sure, like any athletic director, that the decision is in concert with the values and traditions of the university," Kustra said. Said Coyle: "Selfishly, I wanted the best fit. A fan base can tell you who to hire and obviously we've got a great fan base with Bronco Nation. But I'm the one who's going to live with that person day in and day out." Coyle called Harsin shortly after the meeting. "I want to make you the next head football coach at Boise State," Coyle told him. "His reaction was awesome." It was the only offer Coyle made. And with that, Coyle had finished the biggest coaching search of his short Boise State tenure, a hire that could define his career in Boise no matter how long he stays. The Excel spreadsheet can go back into the secret drawer at the Coyle home. Where he hopes it can stay for a very long time.
Headline: Vanilla playbook yields bland results Subhead: Reporter: Brian Murphy Desk: Source: Staff Day: Sunday Dateline: Print Run Date: 9/1/2013 Digital Run Date: Text: SEATTLE After the worst offensive season since he arrived in Boise as offensive coordinator in 2001, Boise State head coach Chris Petersen promised to clean up - and clean out - the playbook in the offseason. The Broncos emptied it all right. They emptied it of all its Boise State-ness. No more tight ends swapping across the formation, to help the quarterback with pre-snap reads and manipulate coverage. No more trick plays. No more huddles. No more variety of any sort. They just lined up quarterback Joe Southwick in the pistol formation - a shorter shotgun and a single running back in the backfield. Nearly every rushing attempt came off a slowdeveloping zone read, with Southwick holding the ball and the running back coming to get it. Southwick completed 25-of-40 passes for a mere 152 yards. The Broncos' longest play went for 18 yards. And they scored just six points against the Huskies in a 38-6 beat down, their worst overall performance since Petersen became head coach in 2006. Boise State scrapped its unique offense - the one that thrilled, entertained and averaged a national-best 41.04 points per game since 2000 - and replaced it with a cookie-cutter spread attack. "That's kind of the wave of the future right now in college football," offensive coordinator Robert Prince said. Washington, in fact, employed it to great success against the Broncos' defense.
Only following the next wave has never been Boise State's way. The Broncos usually did their own thing - and did it better. From a blue field to recruiting, Boise State zigged when others zagged. And the Broncos developed their own offensive style. It didn't look quite like anyone else's. It was inspired and efficient and moved defenders like a skilled chess player. The offense struggled last year, the first post-Kellen Moore season. The Broncos failed to score an offensive touchdown in the season-opening loss at Michigan State and a 7-6 home victory against BYU. Though Boise State showed improvement toward the end of the season, it averaged a Petersen-era low 30.2 points per game, forcing a reexamination of the offense. "We studied many offenses and we looked at our personnel and we felt this was the best way to have production," Prince said. "It was about us and what we felt was going to be best for our personnel and getting ourselves in position to make plays, and unfortunately, it didn't work (Saturday)." Petersen felt the playbook had become too dense, that it had too many layers to be truly effective. That certainly wasn't a problem in Saturday night's shellacking. Shane Williams-Rhodes, perhaps the team's most explosive player, touched the ball twice on offense, both on the final drive with the outcome no longer in doubt. With Southwick, Prince and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith entering their second seasons, the offense was supposed to be the Broncos' strong suit. It was supposed to carry a rebuilt defense in the early going. It was supposed to get back to its high-scoring ways. Instead, it needs to go back to the drawing board. The Broncos spent all offseason working on this offense. There is no way they will scrap it completely after one game. "You have to give up something to get something, and we've been fairly effective (in the spread)," Petersen said after the game. "Those guys have been fairly effective through most of camp and spring ball and those types of things, so we'll continue to keep tweaking and tinkering with it." But something must change - and quick. Or Boise State will spend next off-season revamping again.
Headline: Baseball cards' value not all about the money Subhead: Reporter: Brian Murphy Desk: Source: Staff Day: Sunday Dateline: Print Run Date: 6/23/2013 Digital Run Date: Text: I had passed the store thousands of times in the past eight years. Its mere presence offering a reminder of my youth and the thousands of hours I'd spent collecting, trading, sorting and memorizing baseball cards. It has been years - probably 23 or so - since I'd even looked at my collection. But I've never forgotten about them. I'd lugged the 75,000 or so pieces of cardboard across the country, still in protective plastic sleeves or boxes designed specifically for them. Haunted by stories of older collectors having their Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards tossed when they left the house for college or married life, I vowed to safeguard my cards forever. Someday, they'd be worth thousands of dollars. Maybe more, right? As everyone else threw their cards away, mine would only become more valuable - just like the cards from the 1950s and '60s. Except it never happened. The cards actually declined in value. The late '80s, the era when I was consumed with baseball cards, just so happened to be the peak time for collecting (and, importantly, printing) them. It was all about volume then. Sell 1 million cards today. Print 1 million tomorrow. It's how I could afford to purchase packs - complete with a stick of teeth-rotting, pink gum - for 50 cents. It's also why millions of those cards remain in circulation. Rarity is what drives card prices. Rarity did not exist in the late '80s. Though the cards have not increased in monetary worth, their value to me has grown. As a link to a childhood that can't help but get further away each day.
One Friday afternoon last month, feeling particularly nostalgic, I finally made my initial foray into Jerry's Rookie Shop, the small sports and entertainment card shop on State Street that I've passed all those times. For years, I've wanted to clean up a 1978 Topps set, my birth-year set, a Christmas present from my mom when I was 10 and at the height of my collecting. All the cards are there, but the checklists were marked up. Other than those cards, I wasn't looking for anything in particular, save perhaps a peek at the past. What I discovered was an entirely different hobby. "It's gotten very expensive," said Jerry McClusky, the shop's owner. "It's driven out casual fans. It's driven kids out completely." It's also allowed McClusky to keep a store open. I used to purchase my packs at convenience stores, gas stations and even delis. A dedicated card business can't operate solely on 50-cent packs. Today packs cost more than $4 each as companies have produced more and more specialty sets and special cards. The 792-card sets I grew up on are no more. The hierarchal numbering system is gone. Topps used to save its "00" cards for the absolute best players with other good players getting a "0" or "5," such as 460 or 325. There are subsets upon subsets. Now people are hunting for cards with swatches of uniform in them or authenticated autographs or special inserts. Collectors are more like investors - or gamblers, depending on your perspective. Bruce McAllister, 58, has secured a valuable collection. He collected as a kid, got back into the hobby when his children were little and now seeks autograph cards almost exclusively. He had "eight to 12" Tiger Woods autograph cards, valued at between $2,300 and $4,100. He bought by the box at the card shop. Some boxes cost more than $80. I watched a regular named Ron (he asked me not to use his last name) open pack after pack after pack, hoping to "pull" a valuable card: an autograph card, an exclusive card, something worth hundreds of dollars. "You're watching the most unlucky person in the history of this hobby," he said as nothing good materialized. It was painful to watch. His bill rising. His luck not changing.
McClusky kept tabs, almost like a blackjack dealer who keeps flipping 21s against an increasingly desperate player. Rooting, but powerless to help. "You deal with a lot of different personalities," he said. I was missing the joy that came from opening a wax pack and hoping not only for good cards, but for cards I needed to complete the set. Just then, 8-year-old Sam Pepe entered the store with his dad, Mike. Major League Baseball has worked with shops like McClusky's to help kids stay engaged, providing cards through a Boy Scout pack in Sam's case. Sam went straight to the bargain bin, loose cards selling for less than a dollar. He sifted through them until he found what he was looking for - San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. He showed it to his dad and snagged a dollar. Maybe 20 years from now he'll still have it, just like the dozens of Will Clark cards I still have. Maybe he'll still smile when he passes another small card shop. Last weekend, I attended a card show at the Boise Hotel. McClusky organized it. I connected with one of the dealers, who said he had the 1978 cards, along with a few cards from 1989 and '90 that I needed to complete sets. I e-mailed him my list during the week and he shipped the cards along with a small bill. I placed the cards in their proper spots Thursday night. More than 20 years later, the sets are finally complete. They may not be worth much, but it's tough to place a value on feeling 10 again.