BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
While everything’s on hiatus, we can celebrate some of the good things in sports, like late Boise State legend Lyle Smith. The “father of Bronco football” was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1916. Smith, who built Boise Junior College into a powerhouse in the late 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, is considered the man who inspired the Broncos program to grow into what it is today. His career record at BJC was 156-26-6, with five undefeated seasons, a 37-game winning streak, 51 shutouts, and the school’s original national championship—in the JC ranks in 1958.
Smith coached the Broncos through their final season as a junior college in 1967. He then became full-time athletic director in the first academic year of Boise State as a four-year school. He hired Tony Knap as head football coach, and 50 years ago he oversaw the construction of what is now Albertsons Stadium (original capacity: 14,500). Smith’s last year as A.D. saw the Broncos win the Division I-AA national championship. It was unforgettable four years ago today as Smith attended a Boise State spring practice on the blue turf and was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by the Broncos. That was his 100th. Lyle Smith would have been 104 years old today.
ONE GIGANTIC EVENT CAN STILL GO ON THIS SPRING
Former Boise State stars Curtis Weaver, Ezra Cleveland and John Hightower (and hopefully John Molchon) will still know what their NFL futures hold in five weeks. The NFL Draft has pulled out of the public glitz of Las Vegas April 23-25, but the basic procedure will proceed—in a very understated way, no doubt. The draft doesn’t need the show, it just needs to happen. With the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour on the shelf, the draft is going to be the one and only major sporting event of, perhaps, the next two or three months. Huge. The dicey part for NFL teams: they’re prohibited from conducting pre-draft visits to team facilities. No pro days. There’ll be some guesswork involved in this year’s draft, especially in the higher rounds.
We now call him former Boise State guard Alex Hobbs, and he seemed squared away Monday in an interview on Idaho SportsTalk. While obviously disappointed by the shocking ending to Boise State’s NIT hopes last Thursday, Hobbs still feels good about the 2020-21 season. “I don’t think there’s many teams that could have done what we did,” said Hobbs. “Going from 20 losses to 20 wins this year is something we should be proud of. Hobbs practiced all season against what essentially will be next year’s starting lineup. And yes, he says the Broncos—with their four highly-touted transfers—are going to be pretty good.
Hobbs’ Boise State career was interesting. If there was a lifetime achievement award for the Broncos’ best supporting actor, Hobbs might be the winner. He was the Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore, then started two-thirds of the time the following season. Hobbs’ scoring average as a senior was 8.1 points per game, down from 12.1 as a junior. But that’s because Abu Kigab became eligible a month and a half into the season, and Hobbs was coming off the bench again. Despite starting only 42 of his 118 career games at Boise State, he still scored 1,001 points.
APSEY AWARD WATCH
Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey is one of five finalists for the Sports Business Journal’s AD of the Year award. Apsey presided over three Mountain West Championships before athletics were shut down last week—football, women’s soccer and women’s basketball. The other finalists are all Power 5 people: Kirby Hocutt of Texas Tech, Rob Mullens of Oregon, Mack Rhoades of Baylor and Scott Stricklin of Florida. The winner will be announced in May at Sports Business Awards in New York.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS… March 17, 1977:
It is still Idaho State’s greatest athletic achievement—and it’s considered to be the night the UCLA basketball dynasty died. Two seasons after John Wooden retired, the Bengals upset the Bruins 76-75 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Provo. Steve Hayes, ISU’s seven-foot center from Aberdeen, had 27 points and 12 rebounds. And Jeff Cook, a 6-10 forward, pulled down 14 rebounds to go with eight points. The stunning loss ended a run of 10 consecutive Final Fours for UCLA, who came into the tournament with a No. 2 national ranking under second-year coach Gene Bartow.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons)
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