Bronco Stadium is truly the house that Lyle Smith built.
Coach Smith took over the helm of the Boise Junior College
Broncos in 1947. Back then, the
football games were located at a public football field with bleachers for 1,000
fans. For high school football games
such as those between Boise High and
in the late forties, the bleachers from Boise High were used to increase
seating capacity to over 9,500. Then, the football field was located where the
current Student Union Building stands.
But with the growth of
during the post-war boom, and BJC’s expanding enrollment due to the G.I.
Bill, the college was ready for the construction of its own football stadium.
Spurred by the success of the football program under Coaches Lyle Smith
and George Blankley, and with teams featuring players Bob Mays, Ed Troxell, Phil
Irondiro, Ed Otto, Paul Messick, and Harry Howerton, the Broncos forged a 28-0
record through the 1947-49 seasons capped by the 1949 Potato Bowl victory over
. Big-time football had arrived in
, and the community supported the construction of the wooden stadium with
bleacher seats for 10,000 fans.
The old wooden stadium was situated on a northwest to
southeast orientation parallel to the bend of the
, near the edge of Broadway and College (what is now
---precisely where the heart of tailgating is enjoyed today).
Optimist and Shrine groups typically assisted with parking in the dirt
lot, and a chain-link fence encircled the end zones.
A simple scoreboard, denoting time, Home and Visitor scores, down and
yards to go, stood in the northwest end zone.
White, H-shaped goal posts stood at the back of the end zones.
Individual horn-style speakers were set on posts towering above the
thirty rows of seats. The locker
rooms were located a good distance away, in small wooden structures near the old
Fans would enter through one of the four tunnels at the
stadium’s façade, arriving to the front of the seating, and then walk back up
the stairs to their rows. Save for
the cottonwoods by the
, the setting was open and carefree. Children
routinely slipped beneath the bleachers to climb in the jungle gym of support
beams and steel poles, to kick the litter of popcorn bags and paper cups.
Boys, still wearing their morning Optimist football game jerseys, would
stand at the apron of the end zones, and wait for the Broncos to finish off a
scoring drive, just for the chance to slap the shoulder pads or helmet of a
The apex of Lyle Smith’s success as a coach was directing
the Broncos to the NJCAA championship, built on a dominant running attack around
the Wing-T, with a willingness to throw the occasional bomb.
In the NJCAA Championship game of 1958 in Bronco Stadium, the Broncos
before 10,000 fans on a cold and bright November day. Bronco Country poster BJC55, as a player for Coach Smith, remembers the field more than
the stadium itself. In those days,
he reminds us, they played with no facemasks, and he remembers that taste of
dirt and grass. BJC55 reports that after one particular dog-pile, where he was on
the bottom his face in the mud, he wondered if he’d get out of it alive.
In those days, the names of Tony Park, Elton Robinson, Duane Pierce, and
Dick Newby were Bronco lore. The
early ‘60s also saw some of the best players ever to don the Blue and
, including NFL Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox and NFL journeyman Jerry Inman.
The biggest games, however, in the 1960s at the old wooden
stadium were the annual Veteran’s Day game, with the Borah Lions usually
getting the better of the Boise Braves. The
stadium would fill above capacity, and the parking lot was full of floats and
decorated cars and buses, bedecked in red and white or green and gold.
Both bands would play together in a tribute in honor of our soldiers, and
had grown big enough for two public high schools, that day always captured the
city’s small town spirit. Dick
Eardley would be the radio broadcaster for those games, and Borah often used
that game to break out new gimmicks as coaches Ed Troxell of Borah and Ed Knecht
tried to outdo one and another. Bronco
Country poster bdransfield remembers
that the Lions used a no-huddle offense, confusing even the referees, who blew
their whistles for a time out to get a handle on this tactic.
The Veteran’s Day game featured great players over the years, including
Borah’s Steve Preece and
’s Kent Scott.
The old Bronco Stadium also witnessed some of the first
major outdoor rock concerts in Idaho in 1968, through sponsorship of KYME 740,
broadcasting out of the Hillcrest Shopping Center.
That summer, 5,000 attended concerts performed by the Beach Boys and
Caldwell’s own, Paul Revere and the Raiders.
It’s also noteworthy that BYU,
all have, in fact, won games at Bronco Stadium.
Those games were against
, which typically played one game per year in
. The last game
played in the old wooden stadium was in 1969, when they lost to
47-42, as the Vandals were unable to contain Ed “The Flea”
. The Broncos bested that same
, and thus were able to claim their first unofficial state title.
But through the years, the Vandals actually had a winning record playing
, and up through 1968, it was assumed that one was a BJC and
Vandal fan. Bronco fans then could
legitimately cheer for the likes of Jerry Kramer and Ray McDonald playing in
With the 1966 approval of
as a four-year school, the football program began competing against four-year
colleges in 1968. It marked the
appropriate time for Coach Smith to retire as coach and serve as the college’s
first athletic director. Coach Smith
hired former Vandal teammate Tony Knap who, after being unceremoniously released
as the head coach of
, was an assistant coach for the British Columbia Lions of the CFL.
The leap to four-year ball was uncertain, as the Broncos suffered through
a 6-4 campaign in their final season as a junior college, even losing to
for the first and only time. With a
slate of new teams, including
on the upcoming 1968 schedule, and with a new coach, many in
wondered if the team could even compete.
The 1968 Broncos, led by quarterback Harold Zimmerman and
running back Abe Brown and linebacker Steve Svitak, started the season with a
loss at home to
, an NAIA powerhouse. Two weeks
later, they were embarrassed by Weber State, a team that had been a junior
college rival just five years prior. It
appeared that the Broncos weren’t in fact ready for the big time.
But then the Broncos reeled off 7 consecutive wins to close the season,
including an historic upset over Idaho State.
For 1969, the final season of old wooden stadium, the Broncos went 9-1,
losing at home in a close defensive match against Northern Colorado.
For the Broncos that season, Faddie Tillman, Steve Forrey, and Rocky Lima
asserted their names in the Bronco history books.
Their great victory of that year was against
, in which Henry Jenkins’ amazing 91-yard punt return outshone Ed Bell’s
But with the Broncos preparing to join the Big Sky
Conference, and with both
developing plans for their own state-of-the-art stadiums,
was in sore need of upgrading its junior college athletic facilities.
A new concrete stadium, with AstroTurf field, an upper deck for the west
side of the stadium, a press box, and a modern locker-room, was set for the 1970
. In the last game to be played in
the old wooden stadium, the Broncos defeated the Coyotes of The College of Idaho
November 22, 19
My own memories are filled with playing beneath the
stadium, and rushing to slap the helmet of tiny Gerald “Pudding” Grayson,
all 150 pounds of him, after he scored from one-yard out back in 1969.
I’m pretty sure I ran into the path of many current posters, each of us
sporting our Optimist jerseys: Intermountain
Gas, Royal Restaurant, Mountain Bell, and Buttrey’s.
Each of us, surely, caught up in our own imaginations of playing for Tony
But I suspect that our own CajunBronco has the sweetest
memory of all regarding the old wooden stadium.
He recounts: “In 1969 I
kissed a girl named Kelli at the north end of the stadium when we were 15
years old. Kelli and I are married and have four kids, the youngest just
turned 21. We were walking by the
river after Jessi graduated from
this year, and I had the chance to point out the general location of our first
kiss. By the way, over 40 years later she is still a great kiss.”
1964 aerial photo of Bronco Stadium is included with permission from the Boise State University Library Digital Collections. Other use without expressed permission from Boise State is prohibited.