BOISE — Bryan Harsin plans to watch Boise State practice this weekend to get a feel for the talent and the way the team operates. He did the same thing last year at Arkansas State.
He won't have any formal coaching role, though.
"I'm going to come in here and look under the hood at exactly what's going on," he said.
He hopes to attend the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 against Oregon State, but those plans are tentative depending on his schedule for interviewing and hiring assistant coaches. Linebackers coach Bob Gregory is the interim head coach.
Going forward, Harsin expects to have a significant role in the offense. He began last season as the playcaller for Arkansas State but gave that up midseason.
"I can do that, and it's something I enjoy doing," he said. "I love coaching the quarterback - that's the one thing. I spent a lot of time developing a process for teaching the position. Calling plays? I haven't decided. To me, that's all about the staff you hire."
A last ... and a first
Harsin met with his Arkansas State players Wednesday to say goodbye. He met with Boise State players Friday morning to say hello.
On the Arkansas State meeting, he said: "It was one of the hardest things I had to do, to walk into that room and tell them I was taking another job. I wanted to make sure I had a chance to see them face-to-face, shake their hands and thank every single one of them for the impact they had on my life. They understood why I had to be at Boise State. I explained that to them, and they were tremendous."
On the Boise State meeting, he said: "I could see the excitement in their eyes. I could see the Boise in their eyes. It got me fired up, and I can't wait to get started with them."
Harsin doesn't have a timeline for building his staff of nine full-time assistant coaches. He will have $2.2 million for salaries, which is more than double the budget at Arkansas State.
The recruiting trail
Harsin has started recruiting but isn't sure whether he'll get any face-to-face time with prospects before the NCAA's dead period begins Monday. The next recruiting window begins Jan. 16.
Signing Day is Feb. 5.
"We've got to reach out and make sure these recruits and coaches hear from us," Harsin said.
Athletic Director Mark Coyle and other senior staffers in the athletic department called recruits during the school's five-day window without a coach.
"We'll find out if I'm a good recruiter or not," Coyle said. "I just wanted to reassure them - we have a process in place, we have a culture in place and you're going to excel."
We meet again
Coyle spoke to the team after Petersen's farewell speech Dec. 6.
"Chris leaves the room and now you've got Mark Coyle, the athletic director, talking to 100 guys on the football team who are staring at me with a blank look," Coyle said. "I made it very clear that we have an incredible culture here, we have an incredible brand here and we are losing a member of our family. We are so excited for Chris and (wife) Barb and (sons) Jack and Sam. But we've got to figure out the next piece of the puzzle. I told them, 'Everybody is going to pay attention to how we respond. We can all hit the panic button, or we can all take a deep breath.' I can't tell you how proud I am of our student-athletes. I thought they handled it well."
Coyle returned with Harsin on Friday, one week later.
"I told them (last week) it's going to take me some time to get this lined up - it's going to feel like 10 years," he said. "A lot of them thanked me for how quickly we got it done. I think a lot of them feel really comfortable because some of the upperclassmen know coach Harsin."
Gone, not forgotten
Coyle and President Bob Kustra thanked Petersen for his 13 years of service and complimented the way he handled his departure to Washington in their first public comments about the coaching change. Petersen informed Coyle of his discussions with USC and Washington.
"That's unique in our business," Coyle said.
Boise State covered the cost of Harsin's $1.75 million buyout with the $750,000 buyout check from Washington to fulfill Petersen's contract and a lower salary for Harsin. Harsin will make $1 million each in the first two years - less than half of Petersen's salary.
"When you work through the math and pencil it all out, it turns out," Kustra said.
The term sheet Harsin signed will go to the State Board of Education for approval next week, and the plan is to have a full contract ready early next year.