Forgive Ragin’ Cajuns coaches and administrators if they let their game faces slip for a moment of contemplation after they arrive in Boise for this weekend’s game.
Heck, I would if I were in their position. I’d take a deep breath of that crisp northern air and wonder this question: How do I do what they did?
It’s not as if they’d be the first to ask that question.
The Boise Model should be a blueprint that has a special place somewhere in every midmajor coach or athletic director’s office.
It’s a brilliant equation that creates an opportunity for sustainable success. The only problem is that it was written in a language only a few have been able to decipher.
The Broncos have been the David in a world full of Goliaths.
They’ve scoured the country for football players that others have overlooked for various reasons and turned them into NFL prospects.
They’ve overcome financial obstacles of playing at a small school as well, finding a way to pay wildly successful coach Chris Petersen $2.2 million per year before he bolted this year for Washington.
Programs with the same limitations, or in many cases limitations that aren’t as difficult to overcome, have been trying to re-create what Boise State has done since it joined the Division I-A ranks in 1996.
Since then, the Broncos have transformed from a Division I-AA power into a Top 25 powerhouse despite those obstacles. It’s not easy to establish yourself as a BCS buster when talent-starved Idaho is serving as your home base for recruiting purposes.
Some have managed to match the Broncos’ success. Many others have failed and are right back to where they began.
What about the Cajuns?
After two straight ugly losses, many would be quick to disagree with me here, but Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth has the program on the right track, even if he’s not modeling his program specifically after Boise’s.
Hudspeth said every situation is unique. Each program faces a different dynamic, different challenges.
Boise was brand-new to what is now called FBS football in the late ’90s before they started their string of success — after being one of the best FCS programs for years before making the leap.
Hudspeth simply had to reverse a losing culture.
“Taking a team that was ranked 120 in the nation when we got here, dead last, and then finishing the year last year at 32, we felt like we made some progress there,” Hudspeth said.
What the Broncos have managed to accomplish with what little they’ve had given to them is remarkable, but even the innovators are faced with the daunting task of taking the next step.
“Boise, even though they had that stretch that was pretty amazing, is still trying to take that next step into a Power Five conference,” Hudspeth said.
Remember, the Broncos had momentarily joined the Big East conference as a football-only member, but they left it before they ever played a game, preferring to stay in the Mountain West conference for now.
Hudspeth, ever the salesman, sees the value in tapping into the fan base to increase the resources for the program, thereby making the next step easier to take. He said Boise has done a great job of marketing their team to create those resources.
But he also pointed out the most important aspect of Boise’s rise, the key diagram in the blueprint of Boise’s success: winning football games.
Let’s add a caveat to that: winning football games you’re not supposed to.
Since they’ve won plenty of games they weren’t supposed to, strangely enough, the roles are reversed for the Broncos. Now, it’s the Broncos who are the big kids on the block, and upstarts like the Cajuns looking to make a name for themselves.
One of the ways the Broncos became a household name in the college football landscape was by beating the previously established name schools. The Cajuns are hoping to put themselves on the map this weekend by doing just that.