Throughout the past 10 years, the Boise State Broncos have
changed conferences three times and have gradually grown successful
in each sport. But for some reason, winning coaches leave their
successful programs behind. The Boise community is left wondering:
why can’t we keep a winning coach on campus?
Moving from the Big Sky conference, to Big West and now to the
WAC, Boise State seems to be behind. There remains one very
important reason why coaches are leaving this university –
Out of the 10 teams in the WAC, Boise State ranks ninth, second
to last in the amount of money in the athletic budget. Boise State
Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier said that our school is very young
and very new to Division I-A athletics, adding that our number of
alumni is slim and the population itself is a smaller number in
comparison to the schools we compete against.
Other teams in the WAC, such as Rice and Southern Methodist are
privately funded schools with a huge alumni base. It is easier for
those schools to purchase new facilities with donors who have deep
“We are a state funded institution and provide our coaches
with the resources available,” Bleymaier said.
Three years ago, the Boise State football team took off on a mad
dash to the Humanitarian Bowl under head coach Dirk Koetter, who,
after three years, left the Broncos and headed to sunny Arizona
Bleymaier said Koetter was a very driven man who wanted to win
an NCAA national championship and then a Super Bowl, and he just
couldn’t reach those goals coaching at Boise State.
Leaving for bigger hopes and dreams seems like a wise decision,
but fans have to ask, is it just about the almighty dollar?
Bigger institutions lead to larger athletic programs, bigger
recruiting budgets, newer and larger facilities, resulting in
bigger salaries and alumni with bigger pocketbooks. So is leaving
really about the hopes and dreams for success? Or is it about the
money, or a combination of both?
Andy Bennett, assistant strength and conditioning coach at Boise
State, explained his decision-making process as a quantitative
“Reason number one is money,” Bennett explains.
“Low budgets make it hard to complete many of the
coaches’ goals. From recruiting, to travel, to facilities,
money plays a factor when you are trying to compete with schools
that have significantly larger budgets.”
Bennett was recently offered the assistant strength and
conditioning coach position at Fresno State University. There, he
would be solely in charge of the football team. Until recently
Bennett was receiving less pay to work in mediocre facilities. But
as of next semester, Bennett will remain a part of the Bronco
Athletic family. He will receive $30,000 a year, which is a
significant raise, and he will be working and coaching in a new
expanded weight room.
Another successful coach, compiling one of the best records on
campus with four conference titles since 1997, is head gymnastics
coach Sam Sandmire. For 16 years Sandmire has raised the bar in
women’s gymnastics. Sandmire even created her own conference,
the Western Gymnastics Conference, since the WAC does not include
gymnastics as one of its sports.
Sandmire has also been offered many other jobs, one including
the head coach position at the Stanford University, but turned it
“I love Boise State. I love the people I work with, I love
the outdoor life, and I love the community of Boise,”
The offer to leave Boise State for Stanford was worth twice as
much as what the university was paying Sandmire at the time.
Bleymaier and Sandmire sat down and talked it out, generating a
plan of improvement. Bleymaier decided things would have to change
in order to keep Sandmire, a vital member of Bronco athletics.
So that is what he did. Instead of five full scholarships, next
year’s gymnastics team would receive eight, then nine, and
then 10 scholarships. Today, the Bronco gymnastics program has come
a long way, receiving 12 full scholarships.
Sandmire wanted a full- time assistant coach, and she wanted to
fly to competitions further than a few hours away. Gradually, she
received everything she asked for. Now, her squad returns as
conference champions with high hopes for this upcoming season.
People in general can understand that in order to be a
successful coach in the very intense Division-I competition, a
coach has to do what he or she thinks is the best for their career
and for their family.
If they don’t win, they aren’t just demoted. Coaches
are fired. Without paying their dues by moving up the coaching
ladder at smaller programs, head coaches are relegated to the ranks
Athletes understand because they have been through coaching
changes their entire competitive careers. Junior Bronco football
player Drew Kishpaugh can empathize with his counterparts.
Boise State has lost its fair share of good coaches, but some of
the greats are still on campus. These are people you might see on a
daily basis. You might pass them on your way to the Student Union,
or on your way to classes.
It might be about the money. But for some, Boise exists as the
middle ground. Pockets aren’t as deep, and the pressure
isn’t as high as it is in bigger programs and institutions,
and as Sandmire says, “you can still treat your kids like
people first, students second, and athletes third.”
Special to the Arbiter