Boise State’s Gregory: ‘Our guys deserve a break’

Broncos play Oregon State in Hawaii.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 20, 2013 

Boise State’s first 18 days of December were packed with stress.

Coach Chris Petersen interviewed with USC, then took the Washington job.

Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha followed Petersen immediately and most players will go into the bowl game knowing it’s their last game with their position coach.

An interim coach — linebackers coach Bob Gregory — was named to lead the Broncos through the Hawaii Bowl on Tuesday against Oregon State.

New head coach Bryan Harsin — familiar to some but not most — took over, but in a mostly invisible way until next month.

And through it all, players prepared for and took final exams.

On the 19th day of December, the Broncos left all that behind when they boarded a charter flight from Boise to Honolulu.

“It’s going to be fun,’’ Gregory said. “Our guys deserve a break. There have been a lot of distractions and it will be great to get away.”

ACTIVITIES

The Broncos will attend a luau, a beach barbecue and a banquet in Hawaii. They plan to attend one of the men’s basketball team’s games at the Diamond Head Classic.

Coaches also have carved out free time to let them explore. Visiting bowl teams usually go to Pearl Harbor, but the Broncos will skip that this year because they went last year on a trip to play Hawaii.

“They’ll have enough time to explore a little bit and have some fun,” Gregory said.

There are a few rules, like no mopeds. And at some point during the trip coaches will ban the players from getting into the water.

The Broncos are staying on the beach — at the Moana Surfrider, known as the “first lady of Waikiki” as its oldest hotel — so they’ll have no trouble finding fun in the sun.

Of course, some of them won’t know what to do when they get there.

“I’m a mountain guy,” junior linebacker Corey Bell of Boise said. “These are islands. I’m just going to enjoy it. I’m too pale to get any sun, so I’ll have all the sunscreen.”

The Hawaii Bowl is different from many bowls with its series of joint team dinners, including the luau. Players will see fire-knife dancers and some usually get on stage to participate in dances.

“We definitely try to give them a flavor of Hawaii culturally and from a cuisine perspective,” Executive Director David Matlin said. “The experience, it’s a special one, especially for a lot of kids, it’s their first time coming to Hawaii. For the majority, that’s usually the case.”

Many of the Broncos visited Hawaii for last year’s regular-season game, but they don’t have a lot of free time on those trips. The Broncos’ previous trips to Hawaii were for a regular-season game in 2009 and the Hawaii Bowl in 2007.

GIFTS

The Hawaii Bowl is allowed to spend $550 on player gifts under NCAA rules. The package includes an aloha shirt for the luau, beach towel, shorts, backpack, performance T-shirt, sunglasses and a cap — gifts designed to be used on the trip.

For the first time this year, the Hawaii Bowl is offering the popular gift suite. Items are set up in a room in each team’s hotel and players can choose one to three items based on a point system and have them shipped home.

“We’re excited to do it because our research told us that’s what kids wanted,” Matlin said.

Boise State can spend $400 on player gifts. The school has split that money this year between rings and a general gift card.

GETTING HOME

Most of the Broncos’ traveling party will fly out of Honolulu after the game Christmas Eve. They are scheduled to land in Boise at 6 a.m. Christmas Day.

About 30 players will fly directly to their hometowns instead.

TICKETS

The Hawaii Bowl has issued about 25,000 tickets, Matlin said. Aloha Stadium holds 50,000. The attendance at the 2007 Hawaii Bowl, featuring Boise State and East Carolina, was 30,467.

COACHING CAROUSEL CONTINUES

New Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin is adding another former Bronco to his staff. Jeff Pitman, a former center, will be the team’s strength and conditioning coach, a source told the Idaho Statesman.

Pitman served in that role with the Broncos from 1999 to 2005. He spent 2013 with Harsin at Arkansas State. In filling out his staff, Harsin, a former Boise State player, as hired former Broncos Mike Sanford (quarterbacks/offensive coordinator), Marcel Yates (defensive coordinator), Scott Huff (offensive line), Andy Avalos (defense, position group to be announced) and Gerald Alexander (position to be determined).

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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