The Broncos didn't make this journey on a perfectly paved highway full of ease and convenience. In their travels they didn't have the quick off-and-on access available to others leading to a huge donor base, lucrative television contracts, over a century of tradition, the power and clout of a prestigious conference, and all the perks that come with being a longstanding university.
Instead, these Broncos made their journey on the dusty back roads, uncharted trails, and steep mountain passes that stood as nearly impassable obstacles on the march to prominence. Along the way they were led by men of character, and victories were won by young men who knew that the heart of a champion isn't determined by the stars next to their name or by the stats listed in their bio.
The frustrating thing for some Boise State fans is that no matter how far this program travels it seems as if another obstacle is placed in its way, and the destination is relocated at further distance. To those who may feel this way, or to those who are beginning to lose their passion as a result – they should take heart.
Boise State is different. It is the program that has succeeded against the odds, and is highly respected by those considered members of power conferences. It is also the program that nearly every team outside the power-five seeks to emulate. It has earned its place without an invitation to the elite table, and without the resources so readily available to others.
The Broncos thrive when a blue collar mindset, toughness, determination, and hard work are valued over pedigree, pride and personal prestige. It is who these Broncos are.
In an effort to keep this commentary bordering on the melodramatic, and perhaps shoving it over the proverbial edge, let's throw in a quote from history. George Washington in writing a letter to to Major General Philip Schuyler in late 1775 penned these words, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”
General Washington couldn't have been more correct.
The dictionary defines perseverance as, “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” It also defines spirit, at least the kind of spirit Washington is referring to as, “an attitude or principle that inspires, animates, or pervades thought, feeling, or action.”
These Broncos have shown perseverance and spirit, and it didn't just start when the program jumped into the ranks of Division I. It began decades ago with the actions of so many, and the leadership of head coaches like Lyle Smith, Tony Knap, Jim Criner, Skip Hall, and Pokey Allen. It continued over the last two decades under the direction of Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins, Chris Petersen, and Bryan Harsin.
These Broncos displayed that same perseverance and spirit with class and dignity, and many amazing victories came as a result. Along the way countless players stepped up year-after-year, and built this program brick-by-brick. Each one leaving their mark on a foundation of excellence. This includes this current group of Broncos who carry on the tradition into the 2016 season.
No matter what happens in coming weeks, and despite the apparent snub from the Big 12 Conference, these Broncos will not alter their course. The program will continue the journey unfazed, and with the same purpose, perseverance, and spirit that brought them to this moment.
The real question will be whether or not fans will do the same.
It would be easy for some fans to wash their hands of the entire college football experience because Boise State wasn't chosen to be part of a “power five” conference—again. More than likely this isn't the reaction of most fans. However, it would be naive to think some of the fan base isn't a little discouraged with all that has transpired.
Forgive the flashback, but I remember sitting in the drafty old press box at Bronco Stadium in 1998 filming a game between the Broncos and the Cougars of Washington State. There were only a few of us sitting up there that day, and it seemed like some of those covering the game would have been happier being anywhere else.
I remember this game in particular because some of the small press box crowd could be heard mocking the facilities, and the program. It was hard to sit there and listen to that stuff, and I remember thinking in my head that it wouldn't always be like this.
Of course, I am a bit of an optimist, but I also knew the history of Boise State.
As the season rolled on you could feel a resurgence of the same perseverance and spirit that Boise State football had displayed for so many years. Although a painful loss to Idaho ended the season on a sour note, the Broncos did finish with a winning 6-5 record. It set the stage for a breakthrough season in 1999.
That next season the Broncos started 4-3, but then won their final six games. This included the programs very first Division I bowl game in which Boise State beat Louisville 34-31. The Broncos finished 10-3 that season, and the program, press box, and facilities have all continued to grow and get better since that time.
For those fans who may or may not know the history, or for those younger fans who haven't seen the progress first hand, or for those faithful older fans who tend to have the right perspective anyway, they should be encouraged no matter what happens with conference realignment. Because these Broncos have always found a way.
If the program has to prove itself for another 20 years, so what! It will do so as the rebel it has always been. It will do so as the outcast, the underdog, and the outsider that continues to kick down every door shut in its face.
In 2016 Boise State has a good team, but it has the opportunity to be great. The atmosphere of resurgence seems to be present again, and it will take a complete effort to do the unthinkable. This complete effort includes the fans. Dedicated fans that will support their team no matter the opponent.
With this being the 10 year anniversary of the first Fiesta Bowl, I want to finally shut up with one more flashback.
The first Fiesta Bowl was of course legendary. Before the game it just felt like Boise State was going to find a way to win. It wasn't just because of the team either. Fans of the Broncos knew they had the talent even if the rest of the country didn't.
The atmosphere before the game was incredible. Boise State fans were everywhere. There were many homemade t-shirts with colorful slogans (some not safe to print), and orange and blue saturated the landscape. The fans were hungry, probably as hungry as the team. In hindsight it seemed like every fan was carrying the same chip on their shoulder the team had carried for so long.
Boise State fans seemed tired of their team being overlooked. They seemed tired of their team being discounted. They seemed tired of being talked down to, and made to feel like they should feel so very lucky to be even given a spot at the Fiesta Bowl.
The rest is history.
The 2006 season proved that Boise State football, and its fans were a force to be reckoned with. The 2016 season has the same kind of potential.