Because the voice of the Boise State Broncos happens to be a UGA graduate, people assume Bob Behler must be torn about how he wants Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome to turn out.
“There’s no question about it, I want Boise State to win,” Behler said Sunday. “That’s my team; it’s where I live; I know those kids. I don’t know Mark Richt. He seems like a nice guy. But I’m friends with Chris Petersen. I’m wearing blue and orange to the stadium and I think Boise State is going to win the game.”
So let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way.
While extremely proud of his broadcast journalism degree from UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and very grateful for his two productive years in Athens, Behler has put in a lot of miles at a lot of places since 1985. Most recently that has been Boise, Idaho, where he came to succeed Paul J. Schneider as the play-by-play voice in 2008.
You could say Behler’s timing is pretty good. He happened to catch the Broncos during the takeoff of what has continued to be a pretty awesome flight above the college football landscape.
“Thirty-eight and two since I’ve been here,” Behler spouts proudly. “Of course, [quarterback] Kellen Moore is 38-2 during that time, too, so that might have something to do with it.”
Behler didn’t know exactly what he was going to be in for when he accepted the Broncos’ gig. He’d spent 22 years calling I-AA games at Bucknell and UMass and, frankly, was just looking to call some Division I football.
In fact, he actually didn’t set out seeking Boise State. He applied for the play-by-play job at Virginia and the search firm handling that opening also happened to be involved with the Broncos. They asked Behler if he’d consider them, too.
“I said ’sure, why not,’” Behler recalled with a laugh. “You know which job I didn’t get.”
He got the better job. At this particular point Boise State is one of the hottest college football properties in the country and Behler has been along for every minute of the ride.
“I knew I was getting a team that had won a Fiesta Bowl [in 2007],” Behler said. “But did I think we’d be a Top 10 team every year? Probably not.”
So Behler was there when the Broncos won a second Fiesta Bowl in 2010 to cap off a 14-0 2009 season. He was behind the mic when they knocked off Oregon in 2008 and ‘09. And he was there last year in Washington, D.C., when everybody and their brother was assuring us that Boise couldn’t get it done against a Virginia Tech team which was clearly too big and physical and had more tradition and whose fans were going to make up 80-plus percent of spectators in a pro football venue.
“I think this will be a great game, just like that one was,” Behler said, referring to Boise’s 33-30 win over the Hokies at FedEx Field. “I give us the edge with Kellen Moore at quarterback and our defense is very, very good. Led the nation in sacks last year. I also think our situation at running back is better. I think Georgia gets a big edge in the kicking game. Not sure about the lines.”
I asked Bob how the Bulldogs were being viewed out in Idaho.
“People think Georgia is a very talented and they know it’s going to be tough to play somebody from the SEC,” he said. “They’re concerned with their size and athleticism. All the same things they were concerned about with Virginia Tech.”
Behler was thrilled when he first learned his two favorite schools were hooking up. While his roots aren’t deep in the Georgia red clay of Athens, he credits the school for getting him where he is today.
A native of Stockton, Calif., Behler enrolled at UGA in 1983 because he wanted to “go someplace different” and because his high school journalism teacher new somebody on the UGA journalism faculty. Behler had called his high school’s games on radio and stayed behind the mic for two years of junior college.
At Georgia he was introduced to sports information director Claude Felton, who said he could work for him and call women’s basketball and baseball.
“Claude always impressed me in that he let his students do things that were important,” Behler said. “He was always around to help but he gave you real responsibility and let you get in there and do it.”
From Athens, Behler got a job broadcasting games for the Chattanooga Lookouts. Then he went north and worked for Bucknell for 13 years, then nine at UMass. Just about the time he felt like true Easterner, he was whisked back west.
“It’s different,” he said. “The town reminds me a little of Northern California. We’re in a valley and it’s not as rural as you might think. It’s a city of 500,000 people. But it gets pretty sparse a few miles out of town. You can’t just get in your car and drive to a lot of places.”
No need to leave. The Broncos are the biggest thing around. Behler is looking forward to watching Moore get the eight wins he needs to become the winningest college quarterback ever. And he’ll like it even more if the first victory comes against the old alma mater.
“Sometimes you get lucky and I certainly did,” he said being a Bronco.