Let’s be real, your work life is void of crazy, insane pressure if you coach football or basketball at Boise State.
It’s not even close to SEC football. Obviously.
Or blue-blood basketball. Obviously.
It’s more like the Dallas Cowboys, where ownership seems to enjoy the status quo, doesn’t stress about winning Super Bowls, and appreciates coaching mediocrity. Obviously.
We live in a balanced community, with wide interests, and we (most of us) don’t channel gross amounts of angst toward coaches, or give them ridiculous amounts of pressure to successfully land every top recruit, win every game or capture every championship.
Oh, wait. Boise State fired football coach Andy Avalos in November, less than 12 hours after beating a conference opponent by 28 points. He was the reigning Mountain West Coach of the Year and was 4-2 in the league when he was sent home early on a Sunday morning. More to the story. Obviously.
The point is, football coach Spencer Danielson and basketball coach Leon Rice aren’t under warped pressure to succeed at Boise State. In many ways, they enjoy a comfortable working environment, and live a comfortable life in a very comfortable city.
But there is some pressure, obviously, and right now, based on looming circumstances this new calendar year, it might be more than your typical amount of lukewarm pressure applied to two of the highest paid employees in the state.
Danielson, in his first season, is under pressure to qualify for the 12-team CFP national tournament. His boss has made it a public priority – he wants the prestige and the paycheck.
Rice, in his 14th season, is under pressure to win one – just one! – NCAA Tournament game for the first time in school history. Rice, who promised us a “super team’’ in the offseason, is 0-4 in NCAA games. Boise State is 0-9 all-time – a donut hole that’s starting to get embarrassing.
So, for argument’s sake, which coach is under the most pressure in 2024? And how much pressure are we really talking about?
Let’s start with Rice, who has a pressure-packed opportunity against Mountain West power San Diego State on Saturday morning. Big-boy CBS Sports is doing a Boise State home game for the first time ever – it’s a chance to make a monster national statement for a program that could use a little national love (and avoid a two-game MW losing streak).
Rice joins the $1 million salary club April 1 when a new raise kicks in. Extra cash always comes with a little extra pressure.
Rice has a superstar in Tyson Degenhart, a strong supporting cast with Chibuzo Agbo, O’Mar Stanley and Max Rice, and rising difference-makers in Andrew Meadow and Roddie Anderson.
Boise State was tested by a brutal nonconference schedule, and the Mountain West looks strong this year. Both provide some analytical leverage and could help push Boise State into the NCAA field.
The Broncos are packing fans into ExtraMile Arena like it’s the late 1980s under coach Bobby Dye. Fans are thriving this season and expectations are high.
For Rice & Co., the season and how it will be judged will come down to making the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. And, hopefully, one two-hour game in March, on a court with a NCAA logo, surrounded by the ghosts of nine previous tournament losses.
And now for Danielson, who creates pressure with his own expectations. He’s new at this job and brings new-puppy energy, mojo and faith, chemistry and inspiration that raises the bar, elevates the standard.
Like Rice, the Broncos’ football coach has a veteran roster for 2024, starting at running back with marketable superstar Ashton Jeanty. Former USC quarterback Malachi Nelson will debut in spring ball – with five stars, he’s already the highest ranked recruit in school history.
The schedule is daunting – the type of springboard you need to become one of the top 12 teams in college football. The opener is on the East Coast, the week-two game is on the West Coast, and there’s a midseason road trip to Hawaii. Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State are on the schedule.
The stars, the hype and the schedule will help athletic director Jeramiah Dickey chase record season-ticket sales and attendance numbers. Lots of pressure there.
Dickey also continues to raise money for the massive, mega-million dollar north-end project inside Albertsons Stadium, and has plans to put a shovel in the ground this year. The project, part of a $300 million Athletics Master Village dream, is historic and the timing is critical as Boise State fights to keep its relevant status in the chaotic and changing world of college football.
No doubt, the 2024 calendar year is a big one for both Rice and Danielson, with unprecedented opportunities, hype and expectations. No pressure. Obviously.
Mike Prater is the Bronco Nation News columnist who co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk (KTIK 95.3 FM on Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.) and the Boise State football postgame show (KBOI 670 AM). He is on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org