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Blue turf, ESPN just a part of Boise State’s popularity

Ferd Lewis

Boise State was pretty much a Rocky Mountain phenomenon a few years back when its coaches were in the Texas home of a well-regarded prospective recruit and wondering if they could make a connection.

"One of the first things we said was, ‘Do you know anything about Boise State?’ " recalls head coach Chris Petersen.

"And, he’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, you guys have been my favorite team for a long time,’" Petersen said. "(So) we’re thinking, ‘OK, well, that’s a first.’ "

The player — who they ended up signing — eventually told Petersen, "I’ve seen you play on ESPN a lot and the blue turf is great."

If the smurf turf was the gimmick that helped get the Broncos noticed, ESPN appearances such as today’s 9:30 a.m. Western Athletic Conference showdown with the University of Hawaii have become the platform that has spread the word of Boise State’s success far and wide.

Today’s game is the fifth of an expected seven regular-season Broncos games the network will show this season and 46th in Boise State’s decade in the WAC. By contrast, it will be UH’s second on the network this year and 28th on ESPN in a decade.

And the Broncos have made it pay off with a 38-7 record on ESPN, including nine consecutive victories entering the UH game.

In that, ESPN has become as much a contributor to the Broncos’ success as special teams mastery, trick plays or the tidy bowl turf. "I think it has helped our program tremendously," Petersen said.

Assistant athletic director Max Corbet says, "We can’t put a price tag on the national exposure we have received from having several of our games on ESPN each year."

ESPN has ridden Boise State’s little-team-that-could rise to a ratings bonanza.

"Boise State has given ESPN and college football fans a lot of exciting games, outstanding finishes and memorable moments," said network spokesman Michael C. Humes. "This year’s win over Virginia Tech on Labor Day still stands as the highest-rated (7.3) and most-viewed (7.25 million households) college football game this season across all (networks), broadcast and cable."

Overall, ESPN said Boise State’s 14 appearances since 2006 have averaged more than 2 million households.

While Boise State has pursued maximum exposure on the network with its local TV package taking a back seat, industry officials say UH has sought to strike a balance between exposure and cashing in on its own pay-per-view package that produces upward of $2.5 million per season.

Boise State’s attractiveness was one of the driving forces behind the most recent WAC TV contract that pays approximately $4.5 million per season and guarantees member schools at least 16 football appearances.

Without the Broncos, who move to the Mountain West Conference in 2011, the contract will be open to renegotiation.


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