Many of you have seen me comment about how Boise State is waging a public image war, much like the way a lot of political campaigns are organized. I'd like to reiterate this thought process and break it down some so that the comments I am about to paste on here will hold more significance than they would without preamble or explanation of my thinking.
Firstly, we should understand the environment Boise State exists in. The nature of the CFB system depends on which perspective you view it from, which is why I like the comparison to a political campaign (or any other Public Affairs type campaign where image and perception rule the day). I think of it as a pyramid system. At the bottom, you have the fans, in the middle are the media and Bowl Committees, and at the top are the Presidents and Conference Commissioners. Even though we are moving to a playoff system, this pyramid is still intact, along with its various motivations.
1. For the fans, CFB is supposed to be about who the best team in the country is but often boils down to a popularity contest. This is the result of the inability to make a sound judgements. People can only base their decisions off of the data available. Media plays a very large role in shaping the public opinion on the nation's best teams and it is much easier to get swamped on info about Alabama than it is about Boise St. This is a classic 'rich get richer, poor get poorer' scenario and is usually reflected in the polls as well. So, despite the average fan's desire to know who the best teams are, they are often hoodwinked and satisfied with who the prettiest teams are. It is important to remember, however, that the original desire is to know who the best teams are. (exception; when homering for a team in specific circumstances (like getting a bowl bid), truth is no longer relevant).
2. The next tier up would be both the media and the Bowl selection committees. They are businesses and their ultimate objective is to make money. Typically, the best way they can do this is to give honest analysis on who the best teams are (media) and actively pursue the best possible head to head matchups (bowl selection committees). This is because both the media and the bowls have a common customer...the fan...who's interest and faith in their product directly drives their bottom lines respectively...lose credibility, lose business. But controversy and shotgun opinion can be just as entertaining so don't get tricked into thinking truth is their goal. It is important to remember, however, that their ultimate goal is to make money. (exception; none, they will always seek the best bottom line they can get. See va tech vs. Michigan and ESPN's direct influence in ACC takeover of Big East)
3. The final tier is made up of the Presidents and Conference Commissioners. Their ultimate goal is to secure as much power and influence for their respective institutions and conferences as possible. This often manifests itself in the form of money but not always. One of the broadest ways they try to accomplish this is through the illusion of an open and competitive system. They actively shape public perception in order to control the market and they only acquiesce to the fanbase when the illusion has been lost and total abandonment is a possibility. They abhor the risk of open competition, tend to have delusions of grandeur, and actively devise devious schemes to keep threats away from their slices of the pie. It is important to remember that this tier has absolutely zero interest in the truth. (exception; none)
So Boise State exists in, what amounts to, a hostile environment. The fanbase's nature is such that they are against the unknown due to ignorance, bias, and assumption. The media and bowl committees can be either for or against...if BSU is controversial and in a position to threaten, then they are for...if BSU is on a down year, then they are easily forgotten. The problem is that BSU has to be well known enough by the fanbase in order to even reach controversial status. The Presidents and Conference Commissioners are dead set against them as they represent credible competition that can be avoided without getting too much egg on their face in most cases.
However, this system is driven from the bottom up. The fans drive the media/bowl selection committees. The media/bowl selection committees drive the Presidents/Conf. Comish's by shaping the rhetoric of what they are doing and impacting public perception. This feeds back to the fans, heavily influencing positive/negative feelings and, ultimately, interest in the final product. The media/bowl selectors can also apply serious financial pressure on the Presidents if they are feeling financial pressure themselves from a lack of interest. That's a very long winded way of saying this; the national CFB fanbase ultimately drives what CFB looks and feels like, regardless of anyone else's private ambitions.
This is where Boise St. was circa 2007/8 after their first Fiesta Bowl...Vote of Confidence; National Fanbase - Overwhelming Yes, Media/Bowl Committees - Yes, Presidents/Commishes - No Overall Status: America's Cinderella team, Feel Good Story of the Year.
So how does a non entity progress in an environment where it has no benefactors and all the wrong bloodlines? Well, even though CFB is set up like an Aristocracy, America is not. In our system, anyone can succeed if they have the talent, the drive, and the work ethic. It takes all three. If you take any one of those away, and you are starting out as an unknown, it probably won't work. Talent, Dogged Determination, Work Ethic; if you possess these three things, it takes an act of cosmic proportions to keep you down, regardless of who has set themselves against you, or how powerful they may be. In a country built on individual ambition and industriousness, everyone has competitors, some have enemies, and you can always find an ally.
In 2009 my Supervisor was instrumental in convincing me that Boise St. was a team worth rooting for. I had just come over from Active Duty - where guys consistently change assignments globally every two to four years and are from all over - into the Idaho Air Guard, where guys are generally from here and work all their lives in this state...I was a Florida St. fan and it took him a year. One of the crucial things he brought up to me, and that I have never forgotten, is how the public complaints/excuses against Boise St. changed from year to year. First, it was that they were too small a school with no recruiting backyard...then they beat Oklahoma. Then, it was that we only win because of trick plays...we beat Oregon in Autzen. Then, it was that we only win because other teams are down about playing us and take us too lightly...we waffle stomped a pissed off Oregon team hell bent on revenge. Oregon trounced the PAC-12 and went to the Rose Bowl both years.
This is where Boise St. was circa 2009/10...Vote of Confidence; National Fanbase - Overwhelming No, Media/Bowl Committees - Yes, Presidents/Commishes - No Overall Status: America's favorite punching bag, Quietly dangerous/threatening
In 2010 we opened up as the preseason #3, within shot of a National Title, and the national opinion on Boise State reached a fever pitch. I had noticed that those willing to speak up on BSU's behalf, or at least give them the benefit of the doubt, on the internet had increased significantly from 2008 to 2010. BSU had experienced a relatively quick turnaround from Cinderella to Vampire in those years and the naysayers were screaming bloody murder about our SoS...loosely translated to 'we're scared as hell that this team might take OUR team's spot in a Bowl game and they clearly don't deserve that because they play a soft schedule!' The nation was split, polarized 50/50 it seemed, as we rolled into Fedex Stadium to take on #10 Virginia Tech. Va.Tech had many supporters that night outside Virginia's state lines and the internet had been set ablaze all summer long with the rhetoric for both sides. It was at this time that I noticed so many fans of other teams sticking up for BSU and I knew there was a momentum being gained that CFB's aristocracy was absolutely incapable of stopping. This was talent, dogged determination, and work ethic that was forcing the argument against their will. This was grass roots, this was open rebellion, this was the peoples' demand for truth overriding the planned parlor tricks of the BCS and it's paper champion. The naysayers were inconsolable when we won that game and absolutely relieved when we lost to Nevada. The conference commissioners probably felt they had dodged a bullet, but had not landed a killing blow themselves. Boise State had become more than a team bucking for full inclusion. They now represented the downtrodden and had been the single most recognized team to highlight the BCS's inadequacies, drawing Congressional level inquiries into anti-trust allegations and threatening the money making racket the aristocracy had enjoyed for decades.
This is where Boise St. was circa 2010...Vote of Confidence; National Fanbase - Slight No, Media/Bowl Committees - Yes (BSU was a recognized lightning rod for media and, thus, a cash cow), Presidents/Conf. Commishes - No Overall Status: College Football's Lightning Rod, Outlaw status, Dangerous, Talented, Unpredictable, FBI's Most Wanted
In 2011 we lost some significant starters and were set to take on an SEC team that had flat out embarrassed us the last time we played. Boise State was 0 and 6 against the SEC at that time and the naysayers were all derisively saying we would fold now that we were going to finally play some 'big boy' football and stop wasting our time facing down pretenders like the PAC-12 and ACC conference champs. With the loss of WR's Austin Pettis and Titus Young, the supporters were much more quiet this time around but the naysayers almost exclusively came from SEC country. We flatlined Georgia in their own backyard, dominating them throughout the game. I noticed that year that internet discussions about Boise St. were a lot less toxic. BSU was being treated very closely to any other team. There were still naysayers but all they had was empty rhetoric, same old same old accusations, and straw man arguments. Many more people were much more ready to accept that they were a very good team with the unfortunate ailment of belonging to a very bad conference. A wall had been broken through. No longer did people get crazy emotional in their attacks against BSU, no longer did it seem like people would rather die of asphyxiation than admit any of Boise St's accomplishments were credible.
This is where Boise St. was circa 2011...Vote of Confidence; National Fanbase - Slight No, Media/Bowl Committees - slight yes, Presidents/Conf. Commishes - No Overall Status: Quality team, quality program, poor SoS
In 2012, three things happened. A) Boise St. had two players selected in the NFL's first round and Doug Martin went on to have a beastly rookie season. B) Boise St. had a substandard, unexciting, non threatening season. C) They won 11 games despite some very bad play offensively, won their bowl game, got better as the year progressed, and their defense dominated despite replacing a ton of people. This article frames it best imo... http://www.everydayshouldbesaturday.com/2013/3/14/4105140/mysteries-of-2012-how-the-hell-boise-state-won-eleven-games
This is where Boise St. was circa 2012...Vote of Confidence; National Fanbase - Indifferent, Media/Bowl Committees - Indifferent, Presidents/Conf. Commishes - No Overall Status: Afterthought, the magic might be over (more ignorant), quietly intrigued (more studious)
My point is this; it doesn't matter if the bigwigs in the game are trying to lock us out in order to conserve their slice of the pie. All of this hinges on money and all of it is driven by the fanbase. In a truly competitive environment, everything comes full circle, your friends become your enemies, and your enemies become your friends. BSU will eventually be invited into a major conference because they can bring prestige, draw crowds and, most importantly, generate cashflow. BSU cannot be openly locked out because too many people have changed their minds on BSU. BSU has gained enough notoriety and developed enough history so that they cannot simply be swept aside all that easily. I think that risk still exists, but this next generation of Broncos should be able to cement our position so that we cannot fall back for any other reason than lack of performance.
I was discussing the Cowboys draft picks on the Dallas SB Nation blog, Bloggingtheboys.com, and when we got onto the subject of a small, speedy back from Missouri named Kendial Lawrence I mentioned SWR and also mentioned Demarcus Lawrence. Understand that, like it or not, the Dallas Cowboys have the largest NFL fanbase in the world and it's not even close. This blog has a ton of members and includes some college professors, at least one ACTIVE NFL Pro Scout, and at least two RETIRED NFL Pro Scouts. Archie Barberio who, while not a pro scout, does a great deal of our predraft analysis because it is a hobby of his. Our pro scouts generally agree with his analysis with maybe some minor changes to more technical things or position specific things to be aware of.
I think the big thing to understand here is that these guys are all over the US and a lot of them are Texas or A&M fans. The vast majority of them really have no business even having an opinion on a small school like Boise St. and yet they all know BSU and, furthermore, seem have some regard for the kinds of players coming out BSU. Rex, in particular, was very complimentary of the program in a comment where he actually liked Kendial more. The tides continue to shift, this thing cannot be stalled or held down. The small school nobody that began as a whisper of a rumor now has firmly entrenched itself in the public's eye...and I'm excited all over again. In 2013, BSU is going to begin climbing the charts again, surprising people, starting up the war drums, and stirring up more conflict and paranoia induced reaction. I think we'll climb inside the Top 10, and maybe Top 5 if we get to a BCS Bowl, this season and set ourselves up for a good preseason ranking next year where...if we have a QB that can take the reigns better than Joe did initially, we are within striking distance of some lofty goals once more. Talent, Dogged Determination, Work Ethic...get ready to swing the hammer a that wall again folks, it's coming.