Brian Murphy: The secret to coach Pete’s success? There isn’t one

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comOctober 25, 2013 

— You want the secret, the magic formula, the one big thing?

You want the — THE — reason why Chris Petersen has been so successful as Boise State’s head coach, why he’s won 89 times in 99 tries, including those two Fiesta Bowls and those games over Oregon and Georgia and Virginia Tech and on and on?

There has got to be one thing, right? There has got to be a secret, something only Petersen knows or has figured out. It’d make everything so much tidier, cleaner.

Then you could say: This — THIS — is why Petersen wins so big with unheralded recruits on a blue field in Idaho.

Instead, on the eve of his 100th game as the head Bronco, you discover through conversations with Petersen, his players, his coaches and his bosses that there is no great secret to his success. No shortcuts. No quick fixes.

Just time-honored values practiced day after day, week after week, year after year. It’s hard work being that good, and even harder staying that good.

“He’s a great role model for how to handle success. When people become successful, sometimes they slack off, get used to it, cut corners. With Chris, you get the same consistency to his plan, the same consistency to the operation that has made the program so successful,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said.

“No matter how much praise is thrown his way, he handles it with humility, and he passes on the credit to those with whom he works and the players. That sends a huge, huge message to fans and all the people he works with.”

Hard work. Consistency. Humility.

These are everyday themes — for the coach and for the program he has carried to unprecedented heights.

“He’s always prepared. He knows who he is,” said Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle, who joined the athletic department in 2012. “… He’s so conscientious of decisions he makes and the big picture, and how those little decisions matter. It’s his attention to detail and his commitment to having his teams prepared so they play at a high level.”

Preparation. Commitment. Awareness.

Nothing magical. Nothing sexy. Nothing easy.

“He’s not doing this for Chris Petersen. It’s not about Chris. It never has been. It’s always about the program, always about the team. It’s about the university,” Kustra said.

But the results have been extraordinary, on the field and in the classroom. Petersen is the winningest active coach (with more than one year of experience) in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a .899 winning percentage. The Broncos have won at least 10 games in each of his first seven seasons.

Additionally, Boise State has been an academic leader, ranking second in the FBS in Academic Progress Rate and eighth in the nation in Graduation Success Rate released Thursday.

“It’s not just about football. It’s more about becoming a man and those kinds of things and some of those qualities that we need in ourselves,” wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes said. “I feel like that’s what really separates him from other coaches.”

Petersen insists that players not only know each of their teammates’ names — they are expected to address them by name around campus — but hometowns and high schools as well. Players appreciate his level-headed approach to discipline (Petersen has few rules, but they cover most behavior) and game preparation.

“The guy gets us up to play the game as hard as possible. That’s why everybody’s like, ‘How does he do it. How does he do it?’ He gives us that edge to always play on an edge. He just tells us, no matter what the opponent is, what their record is, just go out there and fight as hard as we can,” senior left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said.

So how does he do it?

“One season at a time. Go as hard as you can. Then kind of re-evaluate,” Petersen said.

Instead of one — ONE — thing, you learn Petersen’s success at Boise State is about lots of little things and little concepts done right over and over.

It’s not magic. And it’s not easy. And it’s not really a secret. But Petersen has managed to do it — all of those things that come together to be it — better than almost anyone.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @murphsturph

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