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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 16, 2008

BSU foes' blues go beyond turf

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Boise State was a Big Sky Conference member with growing aspirations in 1986 when its athletic director, Gene Bleymaier, got the bright idea to order the artificial turf for the football field in smurf blue rather than the traditional green.

For a small school tucked away in southwest Idaho with a proud tradition but little noticed ouside the intermountain west, Bleymaier recognized Boise State needed a gimmick.

Twenty-two years later, as the University of Hawai'i comes calling for a nationally televised showdown tomorrow with the No. 15 Broncos, Boise State is a perennial Top 25-ranked program. Its Fiesta Bowl triumph over Oklahoma two seasons ago was a feel-good story for the ages, leaving the Broncos no longer dependent upon tidy bowl-colored turf for recognition.

Yet, when Bleymaier went shopping for a new rug this year, the school's fourth, he put the money again on blue. A color the Broncos no longer have a collegiate monopoly on since New Haven, a Division II school in Connecticut, took up the cause.

Still, it wasn't hard to see why the Broncos remain true to "The Blue" as it is known. Not only has the turf become something of a landmark drawing curious tourists and area people who book weddings and photo shoots, it is a psychological weapon.

In the way that Wyoming talked up altitude when Warriors played there and UH doesn't mind Hawai'i-bound foes fixating on jet lag, Boise loves the blue debate. While BSU officials like to shoot down the urban myth that many a misguided bird has tragically crashed to its death on the turf, supposedly having mistaking it for a body of water, there is no such compunction about encouraging the idea that the blue field is a not-so-secret weapon.

The Broncos have, with a wink and nod, nudged along the suggestion that their blue uniforms blend with the turf, providing a nefarious advantage. That they have built up one of the most commanding home-field records winning 35 of the last 36 home games has only made the tale easier to spread.

Even Bleymaier, tongue firmly in cheek, noted on a prior UH visit, the field, "makes it harder for visiting teams to play. It disorients them. It makes it hard for them to run without falling down. ..."

Of course it is less the color and more who opponents line up against that has made the Broncos successful. "The (problem) is the guys that are in the uniforms, not the uniforms," Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley said. "I mean, they ripped us up and down the field so ... I don't buy all that. I mean, the blue turf isn't what's winning it is not the uniforms on it. I mean, the fact of the matter is they have a good football players, they've got good coaching and they believe in what they're doing, they have a great system and they're just whipping everybody's tail up there."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.