Washington’s Chris Petersen, California’s Sonny Dykes, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre and Oregon State’s Gary Andersen received their first NCAA Division I jobs with Western Athletic Conference teams.
For one season, they were rivals in a different conference waging football battles on smaller stages away from the bright lights of ABC, ESPN and the other major networks.
All of them – Washington’s Chris Petersen, California’s Sonny Dykes, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre and Oregon State’s Gary Andersen – received their first NCAA Division I jobs with Western Athletic Conference teams that provided them opportunities to prove their mettle.
They combined to win six conference titles – four from Petersen – and dominated the league for a seven-year span (again thanks in large part to Petersen).
“Great conference with really good football,” said Petersen when asked about his memories of the WAC. “It’s wide open. It’s innovative. It’s creative.”
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Dykes and MacIntyre were just getting started at Louisiana Tech and San Jose State while Andersen was in his second year at Utah State in 2010 when Petersen had built Boise State into a national powerhouse.
Boise State was gunning for its third straight undefeated season and a second straight BCS (Bowl Championship Series) bid before falling in overtime late in the season.
The Broncos finished in a three-way tie for the WAC title and finished 12-1 during its final year in the conference. The next year they moved to the Mountain West Conference.
With Boise State out of the way, Dykes and Louisiana Tech won the WAC title in 2011.
The next year, Andersen and Utah State rose to the top of the conference. After leading the Aggies to a WAC title, an 11-2 record and a 17-16 win in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, he left for Wisconsin. Andersen spent two years with the Badgers before taking over at Oregon State in 2015.
In 2012 MacIntyre led San Jose State to a second-place finish in the WAC and parlayed a 10-2 finish – the most school wins since 1987 – into the Colorado job.
And Dykes left Louisiana Tech in 2012. He posted a 17-8 record during the final two years of his three-year stay with the Bulldogs before bouncing to California.
The lessons learned with their former teams have helped them now when the stakes – and paychecks – are substantially higher.
“It’s like anywhere else,” Dykes said. “Coaching is coaching. Every program has different strengths and different weaknesses. A big part of having success is figuring out what are your strengths.
“What do you have to sell at that particular university in recruiting? What kind of kids can you get into school? All of the different things that factor in what is your roster going to look like. Then being able to adjust your schemes to fit accordingly.”
Conceivably, it’s easier to recruit to Pac-12 schools than the WAC. But Petersen cautions that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
“I said all along I didn’t want to change and we haven’t,” he said. “There’s certain things you tweak towards the place you’re at and your university. I’ve said forever we won so much because we knew what we were doing recruiting wise and I feel the same thing here.
“We know who we’re trying to get here and it’s been successful. … You’ve got to know who you are because you can water yourself down and spread yourself too thin and that makes it harder on you.”
It’s taken the four former WAC coaches a little while before finding varying degrees of success in the Pac-12.
In his third year, Petersen has No. 5 Washington (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) poised for a College Football Playoff run while MacIntyre – in his fourth year at Colorado – needs one win to deliver the Buffaloes their first postseason berth since 2007.
Dykes, who led California to an 8-5 finish in 2015, has kept the Golden Bears (3-3, 1-2) in contention for back-to-back bowl berths for the first time since 2009.
Meanwhile, Andersen led Oregon State (2-4, 1-2) to its first Pac-12 win two weeks ago, which snapped a 12-game losing streak to conference foes.
In the WAC, Petersen, Dykes, MacIntyre and Andersen combined for a .694 winning percentage and a 125-55 record.
However, in the Pac-12 they’re 57-81 with a .413 winning percentage.
“It’s a lot easier to get a program turned around when you can look at your schedule and say there’s three, four or five wins,” Dykes said. “And that’s hard to do in this league right now. Everybody is playing pretty good football. It’s a grind.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“It makes you look like you’re trying to be tough because everyone thinks that because you live in Westwood and you wear baby blue you’re not tough. It makes you look less tough because you’re trying too hard. It’s just weird, you know? You don’t have to do that.” — WSU receiver Gabe Marks on UCLA, which warmed up on the wrong side of the field at Martin Stadium before the Bruins’ 27-21 defeat last Saturday.
AROUND THE PAC-12:
— Washington DT Elijah Qualls is the Pac-12’s highest rated NFL prospect, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. He projects Qualls will be the 12th overall pick going to Washington.
— If Washington State coach Mike Leach is accurate and Arizona State steals offensive signals from opposing teams, then it’s not working. The Sun Devils rank 106th in scoring defense, 123rd in total defense and last in pass defense among the 128 FBS teams.
— Kyle Whittingham won his 101st game last Saturday with Utah. He’s one of six active FBS coaches with at least 100 wins at their current schools. The others include: Kansas State’s Bill Snyder (196), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops (183), TCU’s Gary Patterson (147), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (132) and Alabama Nick Saban (107).
HEISMAN TROPHY FRONT RUNNERS:
1. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson: The sophomore has accounted for 30 touchdowns, which is more than 98 FBS teams have scored at this point. He wasn’t on anyone’s preseason All-America list, but vaulted to the front of the Heisman list after a 6-TD performance in the season opener. Jackson ranks No. 2 in the nation in total offense (2,638 yards).
2. Washington QB Jake Browning: Another sophomore who exploded on the national scene after a modest freshman year. He’s completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 1,418 yards and 23 touchdowns.
3. Alabama QB Jalen Hurts: If Alabama continues to win, the nation’s No. 1 team will garner more attention and we’ll get a better look at the freshman sensation. He’s much more than a game manager, but not nearly as dynamic as Jackson. During last week’s 49-10 thumping over Tennessee, Hurts ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns while passing for 143 yards.
In the hunt: Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers and San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CHASE:
2. Ohio State
Next two: Michigan and Texas A&M.
PAC-12 BOWL PROJECTIONS
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Washington
1. Rose Bowl: Utah
2. Valero Alamo Bowl: USC
3. National University Holiday Bowl: Washington State
4. Foster Farms Bowl: Colorado
5. Hyundai Sun Bowl: California
6. Las Vegas Bowl: Stanford
7. Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: Arizona State
Not Projected Bowl Eligible: UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona.
PAC-12 GAMES THIS WEEK:
Oregon (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) at California (3-3, 1-2), 7:30 pm. ESPN (Cal by 3 points): A matchup of two programs at the bottom of the Pac-12 North. Both teams had a bye last week and lost their previous games. Cal’s defense rivals Oregon as one of the most porous in the country by allowing 40.0 points, 283.8 rushing yards and 494.7 total yards per game. The Golden Bears allowed 474 rushing yards – 9.5 yards per attempt – two weeks ago against Oregon State. This is a make-or-break game for both teams in terms of the postseason. Neither team can afford a loss to start the second half of the season. The pick: Oregon 30-27.
Colorado (5-2, 3-1) at Stanford (4-2, 2-2), 12 p.m. Pac-12 Networks (Stanford by 2): Colorado hasn’t beaten Stanford since 1990 and its three previous Pac-12 games against the Cardinal were decided by 32, 48 and 41 points. Buffaloes QB Sefo Luifau returned to the starting lineup last week and CU scored 40 points in a rout over Arizona State. Not convinced Stanford’s offense, which ranks last in Pac-12 averaging 19 points, can keep pace with the Buffaloes, which averages 39 points. The pick: Colorado 37-23.
No. 19 Utah (6-1, 3-1) at UCLA (3-4, 1-3), 1 p.m. FOX (UCLA by 7): It’s now or never for the Bruins. And truth be told, it might be too late for them to compete for a Pac-12 South title. UCLA QB Josh Rosen (shoulder) is likely to play after missing his first college game last week. His return will help, but coach Jim Mora will need to keep his vow on making changes to a woeful running game that averages Pac-12 worst 91.1 yards per game. Feels like injuries are starting to catch up to Utah. The pick: UCLA 20-10.
Oregon State (2-4, 1-2) at No. 5 Washington (6-0, 3-0), 3:30 pm. Pac-12 Networks (UW by 37): It’s the largest spread in UW’s favor against a conference opponent since the 1991 Apple Cup, when the Huskies were a 34-point favorite. The banged-up Beavers are down to their third-string quarterback Marcus McMaryion and there’s very little experienced depth behind him. Meanwhile, Washington, which was idle last week, is relatively healthy. The Huskies have a four-game winning streak over OSU by an average of 28.5 points, which includes last year’s 52-7 romp in Corvallis, Ore. when McMaryion was the quarterback. The pick: UW 51-0.
Washington State (4-2, 3-0) at Arizona State (5-2, 2-2), 7 p.m. Pac-12 Networks (WSU by 7.5): The Cougars take their four-game winning streak into Tempe, Ariz. where WSU QB Luke Falk should have a big day against a Sun Devils pass defense that’s last in the country allowing 384.4 yards per game. Since starting 4-0, ASU has lost two of the past three games. QB Manny Wilkins, who missed a game due to an ankle injury, appeared healthy but was mostly ineffective (13 of 35 for 149 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) during last week’s 40-16 loss at Colorado. The pick: WSU 35-17.