Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Have an opening, Petersen must be considered
Boise State head coach Chris Petersen pats tight end Chandler Koch (88) on the helmet during warm-ups before their NCAA college football game against Hawaii on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
LITTLE ROCK From Boston to Berkeley, and many places in between, the hot topic is will Chris Petersen be the new head football coach.
Almost everywhere there is an opening, at least in the Bowl Championship Series conferences, his name is going to come up.
It is like an annual rite of passing through Thanksgiving and the welcoming of Christmas that Petersen becomes a household name.
He’s turned down more jobs than Nick Saban has walk-ons at Alabama.
For some reason he has seemed perfectly content to win more than 90 percent of his games (he’s 82-8 as the head coach at Boise State with two undefeated seasons on his resume) in the Mountain West. It is not a BCS conference, but he has twice gotten the Broncos to a BCS game, including an overtime victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
There seems to be some thought, though, that Petersen, 48, of Yuba City, Calif., (near Sacramento) is not thrilled with the idea of Boise State moving to the Big East, which would mean some very, very long road games.
And the conference’s stability is shaky at best.
So now, Petersen is a hot name, and he might have a reason to move. And at $2 million a year - he signed a new contract in January of this year that gave him a $400,000 bump - he might be undervalued in the wild and wacky world of coaching salaries.
The more revenue TV dumps on the schools, the higher the salaries for the head coaches and assistants. It doesn’t seem to affect the income of the professors, but that’s a subject for a different column.
Auburn was paying Gene Chizik $3.5 million, and he wasn’t going to win more than 90 percent of his games if he moved to the SWAC.
Arkansas was paying Bobby Petrino $3.6 million.
Obviously, if Petersen is interested in making a move, Arkansas and Auburn might be two programs that would stir his competitive juices as they are in the prestigious SEC, which will have a shot at its seventh consecutive BCS national championship in January.
Please don’t think Jeff Long has an advantage because Petersen’s lone venture in coaching east of the Mississippi was at Pittsburgh. Long didn’t become athletic director there until a decade later.
Petersen’s overall record, and his Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma, when he used a hook-and-ladder play and a Statue of Liberty misdirection play, put him on the top shelf of coaches, although many have resented Boise State taking a BCS berth from a BCS school.
This season might be his best as a head coach. He had to replace 15 starters and is 9-2, with a 17-13 loss at Michigan State in the season opener and 21-19 loss to a good San Diego State team.
Petersen had been on the Boise State staff for five years before being promoted and his stock has soared ever since.
Petersen is a big proponent of redshirting, as he and his staff recruit California heavily.
Thirty-four players on Boise State’s roster are from California, 26 from Idaho and 16, including his top two running backs, from Texas.
The Broncos have players from 14 states and three countries other than the United States.
This column is not an endorsement of Petersen. It is just a look at the hottest name in college football when there are some prime time jobs available.
One question Arkansas and Auburn have to answer is whether Petersen can recruit the South. It is difficult to imagine 34 California players wearing the Razorbacks or Tigers uniforms regardless of color. Can he put together a staff that fits the South?
Also, would Petersen be more interested in Cal, which fired Jeff Tedford last week?
It is an easy two-hour drive from Berkeley to Yuba City, where Petersen’s dad still lives.
Or, he might do as he has done before, cite loving Boise, that his wife Barbara and his two sons love Boise, and that Boise has loved them back.
Or, he might realize one of these openings could be his last shot at a BCS championship.
Sports, Pages 15 on 11/27/2012