Boise State’s “Competitive Advantage”
By Paul Myerberg // Jul 27, 2011
Welcome to the Mountain West. Now leave your jerseys at the door. Boise State’s new conference has made the following decree: the Broncos cannot wear their all-blue-on-blue uniforms during home games in conference play. Think back and recall new San Diego State coach Rocky Long’s statements back in April, when he claimed that Boise’s all-blue look — blue shirts, blue helmets, blue pants, blue field — gave it an “unfair” advantage. To Long, the monochromatic color scheme made it difficult to scout Boise in advance, since the players did not stand out on film, and it takes player at least a quarter to get used to the field. According to Long.
When he made his statement during the Mountain West’s spring conference call in April, it seemed like a throwaway: Long just nudging the new guy a bit, more or less. That it became a story at all was due to the timing, as there’s nothing going on in April, but it also illustrated the fact that incumbent M.W.C. coaches weren’t exactly jumping for joy over Boise’s arrival.
Did Long get this ball rolling? Yesterday, M.W.C. commissioner Craig Thompson cited the following when making his statement regarding Boise’s uniforms: “What we heard from our coaches is a ‘competitive advantage.’ It’s as simple as that.” The university was forced to accept the mandate as part of its agreement to join the league, so it’s not as if Boise could afford to draw a line in the sand and make a stand.
Though Boise may have wanted to. Chris Petersen found the decree “ridiculous,” saying the blue-themed uniforms are “who we are.” Fans don’t like it, and understandably so. The university signed off on the Mountain West’s decision, but again, it’s not as if president Bob Kustra and athletic director Gene Bieymaier had a choice in the matter. Pick your battles, in short.
You can see where each party is coming from. To a degree — the decision is absolutely ridiculous, in my mind. You see that Thompson really has no choice but to follow the lead of the majority of his conference, if his statement about “our coaches” means every coach but Petersen, not just San Diego State’s first-year coach. What you can’t understand, however, is why a testy Thompson responded to one question on the topic by saying Boise “could have said no” to the conference invite. That’s as dumb a statement as any conference commissioner this side of Dan Beebe has made since last summer’s expansion melodrama.
You see that Petersen, Kustra and Bieymaier had to go along with the decision, even if Petersen is free to voice his indignation. Boise State has yet to play a game in the Mountain West, and while this is not a great way to start a relationship the Broncos are clearly happier in the league’s more competitive environs than in the rapidly decomposing WAC.
You see why the fan base is upset. You know that blue field, blue uniform, blue theme that the team trots out every Saturday? That’s what Boise State is, in a way, in that the look is what first defined the football team before the Broncos became better known for winning 61 games in five years. It’s a vital piece of the program’s identity. And that the Mountain West opens up what could be a wonderful relationship with this slight does not get the conference and its soon-to-be standard-bearer off on the right foot.
You can see why the coaches called for the decision, but not for the reasons given by Thompson and Long. The only real advantage Boise holds over any visiting opponent is that the Broncos have a better coach, better players and a better system. That’s all. So even if we lend credence to any claims that blue field gives the Broncos a “competitive advantage,” that particular advantage probably falls no higher on fourth on the list of advantages Boise holds over the opposition.
In other words, Boise could wear pink-on-pink and still beat you in Bronco Stadium by 30 points. The Broncos could wear pink-on-pink with ankle weights and beat you 14 points. The whole “unfair” advantage thing is true, if the fact that Boise State’s coach, players and system has it ahead by a touchdown before kickoff can be deemed “unfair.” It’s almost funny, in a way: Boise has been in the Mountain West less than a month and the rest of the conference is already running scared.
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