I'm flipping back and forth between the Boise/Nevada game on ESPN2 and San Diego State's self-immolation in Albuquerque, which, thankfully, is only available on radio. Still, it feels like an unnatural act of media consumption, this vision to sound, back to vision, back to sound hippity-hop. I decide, like most adults who enjoy college football, to drop the San Diego game.
The latest Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings have pegged Boise State University as the eighth-best team in the nation, which is remarkable. But, more remarkable is that this condition is not unusual. The Broncos have been playing quality football for years; in fact, two years ago (November 21, 2004), Boise State was ranked seventh in the BCS.
Boise's 38-7 Saturday win over Nevada guaranteed their fifth straight Western Athletic Conference title. Boise has made bowl appearances in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 (three Humanitarian Bowls, one MPC Bowl, one Liberty Bowl, and one Fort Worth Bowl). We can add 2006 and the Fiesta Bowl. Pretty good, considering Boise did not start playing Division I-A football until 1996.
San Diego State has been playing Division I-A football since 1969 and has been to four bowls (Mirage Bowl '81, Holiday Bowl '86, Freedom Bowl '91, Las Vegas Bowl '98).
You ask, "What's up with this pigskin powerhouse?" Well, Boise State University can be found in Boise, Idaho. It opened for business in 1932, claims 18,447 students this year, and plays football in Bronco Stadium, which can seat most of Boise or 30,000 humans, whoever arrives first. The average winter temperature is 29 degrees with no snow. Paradise!
Yes, I understand. You want to know why some of the best football players in America choose BSU rather than another college like...I don't know, let's pick one...like San Diego State University?
Well, recruits must flock to Boise because it's the capital city of Idaho. It's also Idaho's biggest city. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, 193,161 Idahoans lived there on July 1, 2005, which makes Boise over 100,000 citizens smaller than the city of Aurora, Colorado. It is also smaller than Garland, Texas, and Lubbock, Texas, which is okay by me.
They've got six public high schools in Boise, and if you want college, they got college. They've got the University of Phoenix (the nation's finest diploma mill), the aforementioned Boise State University, and Boise Bible College, making a trifecta of higher education second to none.
Before Idaho transplants hunt me down, I should say that I like Boise, I could live in Boise; it's a throwback to my Alaskan past. But, I am not an 18-year-old nationally ranked quarterback looking for TV exposure in order to get myself into the NFL. If I were that kid, I would as likely pick Boise State University as I would a cooking school in Albania. And yet Boise has won five WAC conferences in a row, and, if you include this year, has been invited to six bowls in seven years. This time around they'll play in the Fiesta Bowl, a BCS bowl, and collect a yummy check for $3.5 million.
The Bowl Championship Series has been through several incarnations since first manifesting itself in 1992. There is the mythical national championship, there are computers and rankings, the good works of the AP, New York Times, USA Today, and many others. There are mutations and additions and subtractions and name changes and new eligibility rules, but we don't have to go there. We are free people not under the orders of any court.
Here's what you need to know: the five BCS bowls (Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, BCS Championship Bowl) pay invited schools millions of dollars. League champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, Southeastern conferences, and Notre Dame (with conditions), have automatic berths. Automatic berths tend to be self-perpetuating. From 1992 to the present day, only one school from a non-BCS conference has played in a BCS bowl. Utah, out of the Mountain West Conference, made it to the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.
Which brings us back to football in San Diego. The Chargers are back in it again. University of San Diego football, under head coach Jim Harbaugh, is fielding one of the best I-AA football teams in the nation, a team that is a pleasure to watch. Then there is San Diego State football.
SDSU has been so bad for so long, I'm not sure there's a fix. Compared to Boise, SDSU has everything: weather, location, size, and money. It can only be that nobody cares. Almost 40 years' worth of presidents, athletic directors, coaches, students, alumni have decided -- or at least enough of them have decided -- that playing lousy football is good enough. I don't know how you change that.