Rivalry has share of give, take
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Two highly ranked football teams. Two strong-willed, intensely competitive head coaches, two prideful egos — and one trophy.
Yes, the WAC championship will be decided Friday when Boise State and Hawai'i meet for a likely Bowl Championship Series berth in what commissioner Karl Benson calls "the biggest conference game in WAC history."
But we're talking about the WAC Coach of the Year award — last year's.
If you want to understand the competitive diesel drive that fuels Boise State's Chris Petersen and Hawai'i's June Jones, look no further than the saga of last year's Coach of the Year plaque. Wherever it is.
As they painstakingly prepare for Friday's showdown, a game that will likely decide who is this year's Coach of the Year in balloting of the conference coaches, there is still the lingering issue of last year's award. An issue that, you suspect, hasn't completely been banished to the past.
Jones, who led UH to an 11-3 season and second-place finish in a turnaround from a 5-7 year, won the 2006 award. Petersen, who stepped up from offensive coordinator to take the Broncos to a 13-0 record, the school's fifth consecutive WAC title and Fiesta Bowl triumph, did not. Balloting was based on the regular season.
The voting was blasted in Boise, where outraged fans apparently continue to nurse a hefty grudge. "Jones isn't popular because he won last year's WAC Coach of the Year Award," the Idaho Statesman noted just last month.
Word is that some older coaches viewed the 41-year-old Petersen as having been "handed" a ready-made contender by his predecessor Dan Hawkins, whereas Jones turned a program 180 degrees in 12 months. Never mind that Petersen, hardly a Chris-come-lately, had been a major contributor to the Broncos' success, investing five years in the program as a coordinator.
Whether Jones got wind of what supposedly went down, to his credit, he packed up the plaque and shipped it off to Petersen. Whereupon, Boise officials say, Petersen re-bundled it up and sent it right back. The official explanation from Boise: Jones was voted the honor and should keep it.
Reading between the lines you can see a lot of pique and pride all around: Jones unwilling to accept an award with a cloud over it and Petersen not about to take it from a coach he had beaten and what his peers had denied him.
Jones could try to pass it back again when they meet at midfield Friday. But you know what they are possibly thinking: Double or nothing?
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.
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