Why Boise State Wins: 5 Culture Tips From A Champion
By Chase Baker
I went undrafted and ended up playing for the Minnesota Vikings from 2012-2014. I knew how to win and had the privilege of playing for the winningest college football program since 2000, Boise State University. My particular class, 2008-2011, holds the title of ‘winningest class in the history of college football’ after earning a 50 win, 3 loss record over a four-year period. We were considered a mid-major school, yet we defeated champions from the SEC, ACC, PAC-12, Mountain West, WAC, and MAC conferences without prejudice. Without getting in to too many stories, I wanted to display that we knew how to win!
I want to share what I learned from my time at Boise State and the things that I thought made us successful. There are a million factors that go into why a team can gain success, yet most fail to see below superficial explanations such as having good players and coaches. Those factors may lead to having a good year or two but a winning culture is composed of so much more. I feel these five items made our team special and is the reason why we hold records that are unlikely to be broken.
1. Clear Mission Statement and Expectations
This seems so basic I almost didn’t touch on it, which is probably why it should be mentioned first and carry the most weight. Every team needs direction and a philosophy to operate by. Our team’s mission statement was the first thing we were taught as college players and repeatedly touched on it until the day we left. Most mission statements are basically the same, ‘Win a championship with integrity, passion, etc., etc.” Coaches and their team can then inject their own uniqueness within the expectations and how they go about their process. It’s within the expectations that players can fully buy in, become leaders, and begin to create a winning culture.
2. High Character Players
Our team was comprised mostly of two and three star athletes from high school. We never sniffed a Top 50 recruiting class, yet were a Top 10 team every year I played. Coach Petersen and the rest of our coaching staff understood that great players are developed and were willing to sacrifice talent for character. We put a higher value on intangibles like work ethic, leadership, and coachability instead of height, weight, and 40 times. While this responsibility falls largely on coaches and recruiters, players can do their part by having the courage to call out a teammate who might be doing things the wrong way.
3. Vets Helping The Young Guys
My freshman year I can remember watching three guys stay after every workout to continue working footwork and position specific drills. They were all DBs and consisted of our highly touted senior Kyle Wilson, sophomore Brandyn Thompson who played extensively as a freshman, and true freshman Jamar Taylor. I’d linger around and watch as Kyle, a future 1st round draft pick, demonstrated and talked through technique with the younger guys. The next year Brandyn would step into that role as a mentor, followed by Jamar. Here were 3 NFL players that gained little from donating their time and effort but were always there to help and make the team better. This was the culture throughout the team. We didn’t haze freshman or treat them differently. Once they stepped on campus they were family. The older guys didn’t worry about younger players taking their spots. Instead, we thrived on the competition and understood that we needed everyone to be ready to step in and perform at any given time.
4. Compete, Compete, COMPETE!
On nearly every paper given to us by our D-Line coach the word COMPETE could be found in large, red, bold, highlighted text. Whether it’s a 1 on1 in practice, a play in the National Championship game, or a game of tiddlywinks, great teams are composed of players that compete in everything they do. Our coaches found a way for us to compete in every aspect of our lives and we never shied away from a challenge. We competed on the field, we competed in the weight room, and we competed in the classroom. We despised losing and treated in like the black plague. However, our success didn’t stem from the fear of losing, but rather our passion for victory.
5. Learning To Overcome Adversity
There is adversity in everything we do as athletes. Losing, injuries, emotional and social stress, conditioning, playing time, academics, getting up at 5am for workouts; We are faced with adversity on a daily basis. Great players and great teams embrace these challenges and find a way to improve. There is not a more euphoric feeling than overcoming adversity and rising to the occasion. I had the honor of experiencing that feeling countless times as an individual and a team.
I’m proud of the fact that I played at Boise State and was part of something so special. BLEED BLUE!