HOUSTON — Boise State coach Chris Petersen happily concedes that Alabama is college football’s national champion.
He’s just glad his Broncos are mentioned in the debate.
Petersen won the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award on Thursday night, the second time in four years he’s earned the honor recognizing the nation’s best coach.
The Broncos finished a 14-0 season with a 17-10 win over previously unbeaten TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Petersen, the first two-time winner of the award, beat out Alabama’s Nick Saban, who led the Crimson Tide to a 37-21 win over Texas in the BCS championship game and an undefeated season. Saban won the Bryant Award in 2003, when he coached LSU to the BCS national title.
Petersen smiled when asked if he would’ve liked to play the Tide in a winner-take-all showdown after the teams won their bowl games.
“No, I’m good,” he said. “Let everybody else debate that.”
Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the association on Thursday.
Dooley, 77, guided the Bulldogs to a 201-77-10 record, six Southeastern Conference championships and one national title (1980) in 25 seasons. He served as Georgia’s athletics director from 1979-2004 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Petersen also won the Bryant award in 2006, after the Broncos completed another perfect season with a 43-42 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos are 49-4 under Petersen, including a 31-1 record in the Western Athletic Conference.
Boise State has only played Division I football since 1996, and Petersen wants the Broncos to be a model for smaller programs fighting for respect among the established powerhouses.
“College football is changing, the landscape,” Petersen said. “There are a lot of programs out there that say, ‘Hey, if Boise can do it, we can do it.’ And it’s probably true. It’s good for college athletics and for football. We’re proud to be a part of it.”
The other finalists this year included Texas coach Mack Brown, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, Oregon’s Chip Kelly and Houston’s Kevin Sumlin.
The award is given by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, and Thursday’s awards banquet in Houston was organized by the American Heart Association.
The Broncos finished fourth in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll and will lose only four seniors from their roster next season. Petersen, also named the WAC Coach of the Year, doesn’t think his players will be fazed by higher-than-ever expectations.
“I know we’re going to be ranked high,” he said. “Where that is, I don’t know, it doesn’t really matter. Preseason rankings don’t mean a lot to me and hopefully they won’t mean a lot to the kids in our program.
“We can’t let that derail us. We need that to drive us, and I think we’re a pretty driven program already.”
The national championship would seem to be the only accomplishment remaining for the Broncos, but Petersen shied away from making any bold predictions.
for the 2010 season.
“Those things, you just don’t know,” he said. “Our whole focus is play as hard as we can, to play the schedule that we have and hopefully, year after year, make a little bit of progress.”