BOISE, Idaho >> The hometown boy who walked on at Boise State and years later engineered the offense that sparked the team’s emergence as a BCS contender is home again, this time as the Broncos’ head coach.
Bryan Harsin’s homecoming officially began Friday when the university introduced him as the team’s 11th head coach and successor to Chris Petersen, who left for Washington last week after eight seasons.
The 37-year-old Harsin admitted it didn’t take long after learning about his mentor’s departure to Seattle for him to begin dreaming of his own return to Boise.
“A millisecond,” joked Harsin, who spent this season getting his first taste of head coaching experience at Arkansas State.
“This program personally has changed my life. It’s made me who I am today. It’s made my family and our relationships where they are today. So as far as the dream of this . all I wanted to do is get back here and do for this program what it’s done for me.”
Harsin was among a handful of candidates interviewed to take over for Petersen, who won 92 games, two BCS bowls and helped turn a program from a small Western conference into a national brand. Harsin had a role in Boise State’s rise, serving as offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2010, a period when the Boise State offense was among the nation’s leaders and led by Kellen Moore, the winningest quarterback in college football history.
Like Harsin, the resumes of other top candidates featured strong ties to the school, including Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, a former Broncos assistant, and Dirk Koetter, a former Broncos head coach and now offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Two current Boise State assistants also were interviewed, athletic director Mark Coyle said.
For Mark Coyle, it wasn’t Harsin’s deep Boise State roots that convinced him he was the right person for the job.
Early in his search process, Coyle jotted down a short list of qualities he believed were essential to the team’s next coach. Atop the list: A leader motivated by a sense of urgency, Coyle said.
“So when Bryan told me in our interview that he wanted to operate all aspects of the program like it’s fourth-and-1, it seemed like a perfect fit,” Coyle said. “He’s taking on a big challenge here, coming in and replacing Chris …, but it’s also the kind of challenge I know he’s done before.”
Harsin is no stranger to following big footsteps.
At Capital High School in Boise, Harsin played backup to starting quarterback Jake Plummer, who went on to star at Arizona State and played 10 seasons in the NFL. Initially a walk-on at Boise State, Harsin played behind Bart Hendricks, at the time one of the nation’s most prolific passers.
Then after spending two years running the offense at Texas, Harsin took over an Arkansas State program that went 10-3 and won a conference title the previous under Gus Malzahn, now coaching an Auburn team preparing to play for the national championship.
Taking over for Petersen seems only fitting.
“I’m proud to be in that position, and come in after guys who have been successful,” said Harsin, who agreed to a five-year, $6.5 million deal. “They’ve been successful for a reason.”
Harsin addressed Broncos players Friday morning, telling them to focus on academics as the semester ends and preparations for their matchup against Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl.
So far, no assistants have been hired, but those decisions will be made in coming weeks. He also planned to reach out to recruits and remind them he remains committed to a program built on toughness, preparation, discipline and creativity.
“Our style is our style and it’s a Boise thing and I’m looking forward to implementing that and getting back involved in that,” he said.