Sometimes I like to play a little game I call “Six Degrees of Weber State.”
Let’s start with Ron McBride, who before becoming the head football coach at Weber State, was once the coach at the University of Utah.
McBride was replaced in 2003 by Urban Meyer, who led the Utes to a BCS bowl following the 2004 season. By the time Utah defeated Pittsburgh 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., fueled by Oregon transfer Paris Warren’s 15 catches, Meyer had already been named the coach at Florida, where he made his Utah quarterbacks coach, Dan Mullen (now head coach at Mississippi State), the offensive coordinator.
(Side note/6.5ish degree: Current Utah State head coach Gary Andersen, who played for McBride when the future Utes and Wildcats coach was an assistant at Utah, was a defensive line coach on Meyer’s Utah staff in 2004.)
In 2003, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti had taken a Top 25 Ducks team to Rice-Eccles Stadium and was beaten 17-13 by Meyer’s spread offense, run by Mullen’s QB pupil Alex Smith, a future No. 1 NFL draft pick who threw for 400 yards that night.
Years later, reports Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic, Bellotti remembered the difficulty the Ducks had handling Meyer’s spread offense and sent his offensive coordinator down to talk with Florida’s offensive staff.
This is where it gets interesting. Bellotti’s offensive coordinator was named Gary Crowton, who you remember as the guy BYU hired to follow the legendary LaVell Edwards.
That didn’t work out so well. Crowton was fired after going 4-8 in 2004; no small part of the unrest in Cougar Nation was due to the fact that the Utes were busy busting the BCS the same year — led by the same coaches, Meyer and Mullen, that Bellotti later sent Crowton to study.
Apparently former Utes and former Cougars can collaborate, though there is no word on whether Meyer insisted on calling Crowton “ex-coach of that school down south” instead of by his name.
Despite being canned by the Cougars, Crowton had landed on his feet as the OC at Oregon. Mullen and Crowton had a connection because they had been an assistants in the past at New Hampshire, and Mullen put Crowton in contact with someone he considered a guru of the spread offense, then-New Hampshire offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.
Now we’re almost there. When Crowton left for his current position at LSU, he recommended Kelly, who became the offensive coordinator at Oregon and eventually, the head coach and this season’s Associated Press coach of the year, thanks to his hurry-up “blur” offense.
As Boivin writes, it was all set in motion for Kelly the October night Oregon lost to Utah in Salt Lake in 2003 and when Bellotti sent a former BYU coach to talk to former Utah coaches.
Tonight, Kelly’s No. 2-ranked Ducks face No. 1 Auburn tonight for the BCS national championship game.
It’s a stretch, but just to bring my little “Six Degree of Weber State” full circle, the BCS title game is being played in Arizona, a day after Weber State’s basketball team flew home from defeating Northern Arizona University on Saturday.
Weber State, of course, has a football team — coached by Ron McBride.