Before the football season started, Greg Hart went to a craft store in Boise and picked up a few big pieces of poster board and some fat permanent markers.
A 25-year-old Boise State graduate working as a quality engineer for an electronics manufacturer, Hart had dabbled making humorous signs for Broncos games. Against Washington State last year, he had a checklist of “Things We’ve Lost In 2016,” from David Bowie to Prince to Harambe, and finally “Respect For WSU.”
But this year, he was going to get a little more serious.
“There wasn’t really a point when I decided I wanted to do it. I’d done some here and there the last few years, but I had some good ideas for some of the games this year,” Hart said.
Considering Boise State never had played Troy, he couldn’t come up with an idea that was worthy. But for the next home game, Sept. 14 against New Mexico, he riffed on the tired “Boise Isn’t A State” signs frequently seen at other stadiums. That “We’re fully aware that Boise isn’t a state” sign got some attention, but when the Broncos played Virginia on Sept. 22 his signs started getting noticed outside of Boise.
“After that, it was kind of like, ‘I need to keep doing this,’ ” Hart said.
Perhaps his most-noticed sign was at the Nevada game, which combined the Boise State-Nevada rivalry with the hot topic of former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick starting the wave of protests in the NFL: “We hated Kaepernick before it was cool.” In fine print below that, he wrote, “For football reasons, not because we’re racists.”
The template is basic, on white boards with maybe different colored markers. Ideas sometimes are his own — sometimes, like many great thoughts, originating in the shower — while others are bounced off friends. He laughs that “it’s almost become a brand.” His boss once saw a sign in the crowd — usually somewhere in the student section — and knew it was his without seeing Hart’s face.
As for Saturday’s Mountain West championship game against Fresno State? Hart knew exactly what he wanted to do if the Broncos had won last week in Fresno.
“It would’ve said, ‘Just Like Last Week,’ but that obviously wouldn’t work,” he said. “I’ve got to keep up the tradition, so I’m kinda stressed out.”
Hart thinks he may make this week’s sign a tribute to one of the seniors, but he isn’t sure. However, he already knows what he’s doing for the 2018 home opener against UConn, taking a little dig at the visitors from back East.
“Insulting visiting teams is like an art to me,” he said.
Here are Hart’s signs from this season and his process behind them:
“The sign didn’t have anything to do with (the Lobos), but the week before we went to Pullman for the Washington State game. They all said the stupid ‘Boise Isn’t A State,’ people were chanting it and we were like, ‘OK, we get it.’ I don’t understand it. I’ve heard it all three road games I’ve been to this year. Be better at your insults.”
“I grew up in the Bay Area, so I’m a Warriors fan, and not a big fan of LeBron (James). Virginia’s been so bad that it came to me pretty quickly: Cavaliers, LeBron, and the game was on ESPN, and they love him. Sure enough, ESPN tweeted a photo of it, their college football Instagram put that up as well.”
“Obviously, there was a ton of hype around (Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen) in the offseason, and that ended pretty quickly with how they started out this year. It was perfect because he had a terrible game (131 yards, two interceptions). I didn’t want another Virginia scenario if they torched us, so it worked nicely.”
“That one went crazy (a tweet from Nevada beat writer Chris Murray with a photo of it has been retweeted nearly 5,000 times and liked 13,000). I was trying to think of something with Kaepernick because it’s a hot topic. I know a lot of people that are college football fans or knew him from the NFL don’t know about the rivalry. The first thing I thought of was, ‘Nevada QBs ruin everything.’ I didn’t want it to sound like a racist. It was more a joke about them being rivals. NBC Sports posted a story, and people were kind of roasting it, a few that were saying nasty stuff. A lot of BSU fans got it, jumped into my defense.”
“They’re good people, so I don’t want to say anything about the military. That Colorado State game the week before was the most incredible game I’d ever seen. I stayed until the end. It was too great of a subject to skip over, so I wanted to recreate the 28-3 lead. The time I put was the (48-yard) catch that Cedrick Wilson had to get us kind of going again. The CSU fans weren’t very nice to us, so that made it more fun.”
Mountain West Football Championship
When: 5:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN (Adam Amin, Dusty Dvoracek, Molly McGrath)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 9-3, 7-1; Fresno State 9-3, 7-1 (Fresno State beat Boise State 28-17 last Saturday in Fresno)
Series: Boise State leads 13-6
Vegas line: Boise State by 9
Kickoff weather: Low 40s, rain
Tickets: $40 in main stadium and south end zone, $20 in north end zone; student tickets free; student guest tickets $9. Available at BroncoSports.com/tickets, 208-426-4737 or at the Athletic Ticket Office on the west side of Albertsons Stadium. Boise State reported 20,500 tickets out on Thursday morning.