Within minutes I received two emails, first from my mentor Coach Don Meyer and then from my friend Lason Perkins with a link to the story below. It comes from Forbes.com written by Jason Belzer (who is one of the best in his field). To follow are a few excerpts from his article that speaks of the culture of Boise State football. Please click here to read the entire article -- and it is well worth it.
“If you go into an organization and the culture is way off from what you’re all about, you have to take drastic measures quickly,” says Petersen. “You have to run things with power instead of authority. In college athletics, you have a very short amount time to get things done. If you’re doing it with authority, you end up trying to massage people into changing their bad habits and that just takes too long. With power, you can force people to do what you need them to do to change the culture or you risk losing it entirely because you run out of time,” he adds.
Building upon the rich traditions of the past, Petersen has managed to create a pervasive culture at Boise that has become endemic to the core of every decision and process that occurs within the program. From hiring staff, recruiting and developing players, to the very plays the team calls on the field, each and every facet of the program follows the same set of principles. The foundation of this culture is built upon three core values:
- Accountability – Make decisions with the knowledge that your actions control not only your own destiny, but the programs too.
- Unity – Understand and embrace your role; use it to lift others.
- Integrity – Do unto others as you would have them do to you; free yourself of pride, arrogance and falseness.
As with any organization, its culture only goes as far as the individuals who make up its sum total are willing to carry it. To that end, the program’s entire recruiting philosophy is based around finding what Petersen calls, “OKGs (Our Kinda Guys).” In fact, Boise State might be the only sports program where the first criteria in recruiting new talent is not how well they play the actual game, but whether they align with the program’s core values. According to Petersen, instead of focusing on raw football talent, the emphasis is on intangibles.
“If you fall in love with talent, you’re making a big mistake. You have to fall in love with the person first and foremost because you can only change someone so much. We have to be mindful of falling into the trappings of looking for great [football] talent and instead go recruit an OKG and make him a football player.”
This approach, both in college football and the business world, is almost entirely foreign. Yet, the Broncos have been so incredibly successful at it because they have made a conscious commitment to being the best in the world at one thing – developing football talent. By taking the traditional notion of recruiting the most gifted individual available for a specific position and forgoing it in favor of intangible characteristics, the Broncos have insured above all else, the student-athletes who come play for them embody the beliefs inherent to perpetuating the culture.
Every Boise recruit is evaluated in a number of areas, including: Character, Attitude, Effort, Toughness, and Football Intelligence (FBI). More particularly, Petersen seeks both players and coaches who exhibit a “High Performance; Low Ego” work ethic.
When it comes to determining whether a recruit embodies such traits, it is obviously difficult without having prolonged interaction during an actual game time situation. As a result, the Boise coaching staff leans heavily on a recruit’s transcripts to determine if they have the mental edge necessary to acclimate to the program’s culture. This is why even though Boise State University is not known for its academics; strong performance in the classroom is a prerequisite to become a member of the team, regardless of how physically talented a football player the recruit may be.