Harsin on Boise State football: 'We're going to be OK'

This month's Bronco Invasion was designed to promote passion and a winning brand.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMay 30, 2014 

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin and Assistant Athletic Director Brad Larrondo joked about the similarities between their Bronco Invasion tour of the southern half of Idaho and a political campaign.

They used grass-roots organizers in each area. They visited businesses, schools and public places, shook hands with community leaders and football-crazed kids and excited crowds with stump speeches.

The Invasion also extended a tenet of Harsin's leadership since taking over in December - an approach first seen with his embrace of Twitter and continued through the Bronco All Access video series and Bronco Blitz recruiting push to football-playing high schools in Idaho.

"I don't want anyone else giving the perception of Boise State," Harsin said. "I want us giving the perception of Boise State because that's who we are. That's our brand."

So for three days last week and three more this week, Harsin hit the road to share his passion for the program and assure supporters that the Broncos will continue to win, succeed in the classroom and operate with integrity - the same expectations established by predecessor Chris Petersen.

"Some things have happened at Boise State," Harsin told a spirited crowd in Ammon on Wednesday night, "but we're going to be OK."

Later, he explained why he is willing to give up so much time to visit small pockets of Bronco Nation. This week's trip filled most of three days, hitting Mountain Home Air Force Base and Twin Falls on Tuesday; Twin Falls, Chubbuck and Ammon on Wednesday; and Idaho Falls and Pocatello on Thursday.

"The most important thing - and we talk about this with our staff - is being on the same page," Harsin said. "This is no different. This is letting everybody know this is what our plan is, this is what we're trying to do and accomplish. We're trying to leave as many stones not unturned and let people peek into what we want to do so they understand it better."

Larrondo, Harsin's campaign manager on the Invasion, hoped the visits would provide a more direct connection between Harsin, who grew up in Boise and played for the Broncos, and the fan base.

The Invasion also capitalized on Harsin's popularity and seemingly endless energy. Not all coaches would be willing to do this kind of outreach.

"It makes our life a little easier," said David Kinard, the associate athletic director for development. "I don't think you'd draw this crowd if I came and said, 'Hey, the associate AD is here.' It's an opportunity for him to get his name out there and get his brand out there, too."

The Invasion served the athletic department's mission to grow the fan and booster base. Kinard wants to double the Bronco Athletic Association membership from its current 4,500. One idea: Adding chapters in communities around the state where fans could gather for watch parties or barbecues when they're unable to make the drive to Albertsons Stadium.

The same people who helped make the Invasion events successful - fans like Brad Christensen in Idaho Falls and Doug and Matt Stokes in Twin Falls - could play key roles in that effort.

"I've learned just getting outside and hitting other areas and pockets of Idaho that we have a lot of support in those areas," Harsin said. "Getting out there and talking to them and being around them makes a difference. That support will be shown. That support will grow. And it's something that was needed because there are a lot of questions out there that we may have answered a while back but we hadn't quite gotten to some of those people and they needed to be answered. I think it put a lot of minds at ease in some areas."

Harsin will evaluate the Invasion and Blitz with his assistants, beginning with Friday's staff meeting. The assistants have been on the road, but spring recruiting ends this week.

"Are we going to do (the Invasion) every year? I wouldn't say that right now," Harsin said. "But I'd say it is the time to do it and it was the right thing to do in my opinion and the way these guys set it up it was done the right way."

THE CALENDAR TURNS

Spring recruiting ends Friday, summer conditioning begins Monday and the Broncos' run of camps begins June 6 near Seattle.

Plus, coaches are refining their playbooks for fall camp and beginning some early-season game-planning.

"We're going to concentrate on getting ourselves started right in the summer," Harsin said. "We're going to concentrate on the camps that we have. That's important for us."

NO TICKET CONCERNS YET

A recent survey of 2,000 ticket-buying customers didn't produce any surprises, Kinard said.

"A lot of stuff that we already knew," he said. "Game times are hurting us, with the late game times. We understand that. TV hurts and helps us at the same time. There are some areas where we can improve on customer service, both in the BAA and the ticket office. We're going to try to increase contact between the athletic department and season-ticket holders throughout the year so they're not just seeing a bill from us."

Kinard said the survey provided "a baseline" for the athletic department to evaluate its efforts to improve.

Season-ticket sales dropped about 1,700 last year. They're off-pace by about 2,000 more this year.

"We aren't (worried) just because we have a great home schedule this year," Kinard said. "There's a lot of excitement with the coach. What we have noticed in the past, though, is a lot of people wait till the middle of August. … That first game is always pivotal for us as well."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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