Boise State Football

Boise State assistant coach returns to Hawaii, and it could be a little awkward

Co-offensive coordinator Zak Hill and his return to Hawaii

Zak Hill is returning to Hawaii, where he coached for less than two months before joining the staff at Boise State.
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Zak Hill is returning to Hawaii, where he coached for less than two months before joining the staff at Boise State.

By Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin’s count, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Zak Hill spent 48 days coaching at Hawaii.

That was hardly long enough to settle down, but enough to make it awkward when Harsin had to call Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich. The Warriors hired Hill to be their offensive coordinator Dec. 10 after seven seasons at Eastern Washington. Boise State officially hired him Jan. 29.

“It was tough,” Rolovich said in July at Mountain West media days. “But from the day Zak got there to the day he found out he was leaving, he was very committed.

“You look at what Boise has built, that’s a real attractive place to be part of now. The timing was tough, but in the end, the family part of it was a big factor in his decision. I’ve got no problem with Zak.”

Hill’s wife gave birth to a son in the spring, and being an Oregon native, he preferred to have family nearby. Harsin called Rolovich to let him know he was interested in hiring Hill.

“If you do it that way, people understand,” Harsin said.

Said Rolovich: “I think it was done the right way.”

For Hill, he couldn’t help but have a slight laugh when asked if he expected a rousing ovation before Saturday’s game in Honolulu (5 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

“Not exactly,” he said. “It’s an interesting situation, going back there will be different. ... I’ve kept in touch with a lot of those guys over there and still remain friends with coach Rolovich. It’s a great staff and a great crew.

“We’ve joked back and forth through texts, playing around with it. ... That’s just part of the coaching world.

“It was awkward, but ultimately you’ve got to do what’s best for your family.”

Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien said this week that Hill has taught him “to see things differently.’’ Hill is the primary third-down play-caller, and the Broncos are No. 8 nationally in team passing efficiency (167.97).


Harsin said some former Boise State players will host a pregame tailgate at Aloha Stadium, one of the primary organizers being former Boise State teammate Davy Malaythong. They also organized a get-together Thursday night after the team arrived in Honolulu.

“We’ll get a chance to see those guys,” Harsin said.

Among those Harsin hopes to see is former Boise State safety Jeremy Ioane. The Honolulu native had a successful kidney transplant from his sister, Jasmine, 18 months ago and is coaching defensive backs at his alma mater, Punahou School.

Harsin said he saw Ioane in the spring when he visited a practice, but said, “We’re all in the grind” as coaches, so they haven’t had the chance to talk lately.


It is often a topic that comes up when the Broncos head to Hawaii, about balancing the long travel, the beach and having to play a football game.

Naturally, the old cliche “business trip” comes up plenty, but senior linebacker Ben Weaver said the team has learned from its rough showing in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl loss to Oregon State.

“You can get distracted very easily, especially going to a place like Hawaii. It’s going to be on us, on the coaches, on the players, us leaders, to make sure the team stays focused,” Weaver said.

So, the beach can wait.

“Like coach Harsin said, it’s a business trip, so I guess I’ll go back for vacation later in life,” Wilson said. “... I hope I get to at least take a picture of it for my mom or something.”


The Broncos say their focus is on themselves, but they’re also aware of what is needed to win the Mountain Division or end up in the Cotton Bowl.

“Of course we pay attention to it,” Wilson said.

Safety Chanceller James tweeted, “can I get a turnover Kent State” during the Kent State-Western Michigan game Tuesday. If Boise State wins the Mountain West and is the top Group of Five team in the CFP rankings Dec. 4, it will earn a Cotton Bowl berth. The Broncos are No. 22 in the rankings, Western Michigan is No. 21.

The Broncos need help to get a shot to play San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game Dec. 3. They can win the Mountain Division if they win their last three games and Wyoming loses twice. Or if they win out, and New Mexico wins out, including the regular-season finale against Wyoming.

“We’re just focused on what’s coming up next. If we keep winning, that’ll put a lot of pressure on Wyoming,” sophomore defensive tackle David Moa said.


The Broncos spent most of an entire practice working on third-down situations: “We call it the money down,” Wilson said. It has paid off, as Boise State is 10th in third-down conversion offense (49.1 percent) and the defense is 36th (36.4 percent). ... Boise State is 11-3 all-time against Hawaii, and has won the last five meetings by a combined 227-37. ... The team will tour Pearl Harbor on Friday, and coaches will do some recruiting Friday evening, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to visit Hawaii.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_southorn

No. 24 Boise State at Hawaii

  • When: 5 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Aloha Stadium (50,000, synthetic turf), Honolulu
  • TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Adam Archuleta, Cassie McKinney)
  • Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
  • Records: Boise State 8-1, 4-1 Mountain West; Hawaii 4-6, 3-3
  • Series: Boise State leads 11-3 (Broncos have won five straight by a combined score of 227-37; won last season 55-0 in Boise)
  • Vegas line: Boise State favored by 17 1/2
  • Kickoff weather: Mid-80s, light winds
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