Boise State: Unbeaten, Untied, Unsatisfied

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Boise State University beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl to complete a perfect season. But there was no chance for the Broncos to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Fans in Boise think that's unfair.

TOM GOLDMAN: This is Tom Goldman in Boise, Idaho. Last night, if you let yourself forget there's snow on the hills up there above the city, you could have sworn you were in Florida. Football fans wearing orange and blue, University of Florida colors, showed up at bars around town to openly root for the Gators, fans like Jason Roblis(ph).

Hi, Jason.


GOLDMAN: We're here at the Hyde Park Pub. You're wearing orange and blue and rooting for Florida in Boise. What gives?

Mr. ROBLIS: I love my Broncos. I want to see us climbing those poles to see if we can't finish the season around number one or number two.

GOLDMAN: It was in fact Boise State blue and orange that everyone proudly wore last night, and any cheering for Florida was simply a means to a hoped-for end. An Ohio State loss would leave the Broncos as the only undefeated team and, dare they dream it, a National Championship for a team from an unheralded mid-major conference?

It wasn't just a dream in Boise. The Broncos had endeared themselves to America's football fans a week ago in what's considered around here the Fiesta Bowl miracle. In that New Year's Day game, Boise State beat perennial power Oklahoma in overtime using several trick plays more common to playground football than big, serious bowl games.

But the fun and excitement wasn't enough to overcome perceived deficiencies. The football decision-makers said the boys from Boise hadn't played enough tough teams during the regular season, so their undefeated record wasn't enough to land them in the championship game.

Ask Jason's friend, Vaughn Fisher(ph) about it and stand back. He calls the Broncos' exclusion un-American.

Mr. VAUGHN FISHER: At the end of the day for these schools, it's about money. They're hoarding the money. They're hoarding the spotlight and they're trying to keep it all for themselves - they being the BCS Conferences - and they're doing it because they're afraid. They're cowards. No matter what happens during this game, Boise State won all their games. It can't be changed.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOLDMAN: Across town at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery, a final cheer heralded Florida's crushing victory over Ohio State. It was the outcome Bronco fans wanted, but all it really guaranteed was that Boise, for the next year at least, would be the new home for BCS controversy. While some fans at the Ram grumbled about the need, please, for a playoff, one thick-necked young man sitting in a booth took the high road.

Unidentified Man: They have a system, the BCS, and that's just how it all panned out. So you've got to support that and live with that.

GOLDMAN: Boise State senior tight end Derek Schouman carefully picked his way around BCS questions. Last week's Fiesta Bowl was the final game of his college football career, an incredible way to end things, he said. Not that he would have minded a shot in the National Championship Game.

Mr. DEREK SCHOUMAN (Tight End, Boise State Football): Well, I kind of thought that we definitely at least deserved a chance because it's kind of a story of what if and you never really can tell. You know, you don't what would have happened. But after watching the game, it kind of changed my mind a little bit. I think that both teams were really good and Florida just played awesome.

GOLDMAN: The champion Gators finished with one loss. When asked about being ranked ahead of the undefeated Broncos, Florida coach Urban Meyer laughed and said, let's go play them next week. Aware that many are ready to take him up on the offer, Meyer quickly said, I love Boise State but I wouldn't want to do that. We're done.

Maybe. But for people in this town, Derek Schouman's what if will linger.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Boise.

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