This past week’s announcement of Mike Aresco as commissioner of the Big East was all about the national presence the conference will have in 2013, with schools in every time zone. One of those key schools on the football side will be Boise State. The Broncos have sent the football establishment into a tizzy in recent years, and have built a program which may be in a bit of a transition this year, but with BCS eligibility on the horizon every year, could still have its best days ahead.
At the mic for the Bronocs as they rose to college football’s rareified air in recent years has been California native and University of Georgia graduate Bob Behler. Behler arrived in Boise to call the Broncos games after spending the better part of his career on the east coast, helping chronicle the play of schools like the University of Massachusetts and NCAA tournament killer Bucknell before heading back west. We cought up with Behler to find out what makes Boise State so special and what its like being the only show in town.
You are now in your fifth season calling games in Boise. For those who don’t know, what is it like to be around the team that plays on the blue carpet?
It has been fantastic. The team’s record is 50-3…and the three losses are by a total of 5 points. Watching how Coach Petersen and his team prepare week in and week has been very impressive. They are so prepared. The enthusiasm the area has for the Broncos has made calling the games and hosting the radio and tv shows so much fun. Every one cares.
Is there anything similar to the place Boise has arisen to in intercollegaite sports? New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said its similar to Gonzaga’s rise to national prominence every year in basketball.
Really a great comparison. Both have been successful for a while. Both have really great coaches who seem to enjoy being where they are at. Both have been able attract really good talent and develop it. Both are the only game in town and receive tremendous support from the community. Boise State’s winning tradition goes way back. They have won a junior college national championship and been successful at every level they have played at. It seems like every coach has left the program better than he found it. It hasn’t been just the last few years.
Is Boise’s success as a top ten football power sustainable?
Why not? It seems the quality of the recruits is getting better. They are getting players out of Texas and Florida now and have always been strong recruiting California and the West Coast. The school has expanded the stadium and is adding a new football complex for next season. Coach Pete and company have done a great job. They seem to have great vision and know what it takes to be successful. It is hard to keep it there, but I think Boise State has what it takes to remain elite.
While at Bucknell and UMass you were able to call some memorable games, what were some of your favorites?
On the basketball side, my favorite game was UMass coming from 22 points down at halftime at the Carrier Dome to beat Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the NIT in 2008 to win a trip to the Garden. It was UMass’ second win of the season at Syracuse. On the football side, it was during the 2006, where the Minutemen made a run to the 1-AA Championship game. UMass beat New Hampshire, twice. Once in the regular season and once in the second round of the playoffs. The game was decided for UMass when a Hatchell brother knocked down a final pass. John in one game and Jason in the other. Both UMass teams were special and had an “it” factor.
From a brand perspective how valuable will Boise’s association with The Big East be starting next season?
I think people all over the country will get to know Boise State more – both athletically and academically. Most of the students come from west of the Rockies, I think you’ll see the number of students from east of the Rockies grow. I think with the exposure in major markets and playing a wider range of opponents the recruiting will expand and the reputation of the team will too.
You have also been fortunate enough to call some pretty big NCAA games, what have been some of the biggest ones?
I was able to call some NCAA basketball tournament games for Host Communications and CBS Radio when they had the contract. The most memorable one for me was a three overtime upset win for Old Dominion over Villanova in the first round. As the game kept going, I knew the audience was building…and while you aren’t rooting in network setting…the most memorable tournament games are the upsets. As people were joining the game, the challenge was letting people know how the game had gotten to that point and paint the picture of what is happening as the game is being decided.
Boise State is a big deal in the market, how are you able to balance objectivity when things aren’t going great on the field?
Lucky for me, there haven’t been many things that haven’t gone well in the previous four years. Two of the three losses came on missed field goals at the end. You have to be able to describe the kick sailing wide…but your voice needs to convey the disappointment to your audience that both you and they feel. It was very disappointing not to have perfect seasons in 2010 and 2011 and not going to a BCS bowl, but I think how many broadcasters (and fans) would love their team to be 12-1.
While at Bucknell you also spent a good amount of time around the Little League World Series in nearby Williamsport. How important is that event in Central Pennsylvania?
This is hard to believe, but I’ve never been to the LLWS. I’ve been by the stadium many times, but never seen a game. This was always one of the busiest time of the year for me, trying to get ready for thefootball season at Bucknell. I was in charge of selling the advertising as well as writing and producing the spots. Mid-August was when all of that would happen. I would also be at football practice learning about the team. Probably something I should have done.
As someone who went to school and called games at Georgia. do you think the Big East can return to the level of success that leagues like the SEC enjoy? How important will the Broncos be in that process?
To develop the enthusiasm and passion that the SEC has, the Big East will need some continuity in members. They will need to develop rivalries which happen when memorable games are played. Right now not many of the schools have much of history playing one another. The schools in the SEC, for the most part, have played against one another for at least 50 years. Every week it seems like it is a grudge match and that adds to the luster of the conference. As far as for respect on the field, the Big East teams will need to win games especially when matching up against those other “BCS” leagues. Simple as that. Win bowl games…win non conference matchups. Respect is earned on the field.