SCOTT SLANT: Is it inside or outside for the Broncos?

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Monday Special: November 13, 2023.

Sunday morning started off with shockwaves in Bronco Nation, as Andy Avalos was fired as head coach at Boise State by athletic director Jeramiah Dickey, less than 12 hours after the Broncos beat New Mexico 42-14. It’s the first time in 31 years that Boise State has fired (or at least not retained) a coach, and only the third time ever. Avalos is also the first Broncos coach fired before the end of the season. He went 22-14 at his alma mater, but the team has trended downward this year. And there are things that happened inside the program nobody was privy to—that exacerbated things.


With Avalos out, Dickey has to decide whether to keep this job in the brotherhood, or go outside. The coaching brotherhood has served the Broncos well this century. When Dirk Koetter left for Arizona State in 2001, Dan Hawkins was promoted from Koetter’s staff. When Hawkins departed for Colorado in 2006, Chris Petersen was elevated from offensive coordinator. When Coach Pete headed for Washington in 2014, Bryan Harsin returned to the program where he played and cut his teeth as an assistant. And When Harsin left for Auburn in 2021, Avalos came back after spending two years as defensive coordinator at Oregon. This is the first time the brotherhood hasn’t worked out. There are still some incredible guys from the Boise State coaching tree out there, but is it time for completely new perspective?


Chris Vannini of The Athletic, one of college football’s preeminent Group of 5 writers, profiled the Boise State job this morning—and listed some who he feels may be lead candidates. First, Vannini makes the point that the “history of Boise State is nothing but winning” (only five losing seasons dating all the way back to the junior college days in 1947). He also says “the program is making the upgrades it needs,” and praises the Broncos work in NIL “relative to the rest of the Group of 5,” especially the Horseshoe Collective. Vannini points out another key: “This program has a lot of support, period,” noting crowds averaging 35,000 this season. Bottom line: it’s an attractive job.


I’ll list Vannini’s candidates differently than he did, as in, “inside” versus “outside.” And add some thoughts. One is Bryan Harsin, who’s living in the Treasure Valley again after being fired by Auburn a little more than a year ago. Harsin is obviously an interested observer here. I think he had an edge to him that rubbed some people the wrong way, but by all accounts he has softened since his experience in the South. Vannini also makes the obligatory Kellen Moore reference, but conventional wisdom says Kellen is settled in as an NFL guy. But his brother Kirby? The younger Moore is working wonders in his first year as offensive coordinator at Missouri. Kirby is only 32 years old, though, and probably needs more seasoning.

Jeff Choate does have head coaching experience (at Montana State) and is co-defensive coordinator at Texas with former Broncos All-American and D-coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. Choate is intriguing—he was pushed hard by players from the Coach Pete era when this job was open almost three years ago (and those players are making noise now). Vannini includes former Boise State and NFL safety Gerald Alexander, a name that has rarely come up before. And finally among the Boise State ties is a very interesting figure: former quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie, current coach of the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He’s 36-14 with Toronto, the defending Grey Cup champion. Dinwiddie is the Broncos’ career leader in pass efficiency (exceeding even Moore) and is a great offensive mind. He just has no college coaching experience.


Vannini feels that outside candidates would include Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, whose Huskies attack Boise State experienced first-hand on Labor Day weekend, Montana State head coach Brent Vigen, who has built an FCS powerhouse with the Bobcats and was Josh Allen’s offensive coordinator at Wyoming, and Colorado O-coordinator Sean Lewis (not sure where that comes from). And last but not least, Idaho coach Jason Eck, whose job rebuilding the Vandals in less than two seasons goes without saying. It’s hard for some to imagine the Broncos hiring a head coach directly from the University of Idaho, but it’s been 13 years now since the schools last faced off in football. For many, that ship has sailed.


A funny thing happened for everyone on the way to ExtraMile Arena yesterday. Boise State fans were expecting to parlay the football victory over New Mexico into an interesting afternoon of hoops between the Broncos and San Francisco. But the firing of Avalos kind of stole the thunder from basketball. While that dominates water cooler talk today, let’s give hoops its due, because that was a conference-type game in a conference-type atmosphere.  The Broncos did it with defense, beating the Dons 63-58.  It was a good win. USF had been averaging 106 points per game. Tyson Degenhart, the masked man, led Boise State with 17 points in his first game of the season. Max Rice and Chibuzo Agbo added 15 apiece. Okay, you can go back to speculating on the Broncos next football coach now.

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November 13, 1993, 30 years ago today: Number one against number two—Florida State and Notre Dame in South Bend. The Fighting Irish won 31-24 after fighting off a Seminole desperation drive led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, who the year before had played for the FSU basketball team in the NCAA Tournament at the BSU Pavilion. But the Irish would lose the following week to Boston College, opening the door for Florida State’s run to the national championship.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 


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