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Steve Springer

In Boise, Football Is Everything

September 13, 1987|Steve Springer

BOISE, Ida.--Attention Al Davis:

Tired of playing bump and run with California politicians?

Tired of being intercepted by one legal defense after another?

Ready to concede that your Raiders' proposed new home in Irwindale might be the pits?

Have I got a deal for you!

How do the Boise Raiders sound?

Oh sure, they don't have a lot of people out here. Certainly not by L.A. standards. There are only about 125,000 in Boise, only about a million in the whole state of Idaho.

But they know a little something about football as evidenced by the 30-0 massacre staged by Boise State on Saturday night against Cal State Northridge.

And they know plenty about building sports facilities.

Example: The school wanted a first-rate arena for its basketball team. A group headed by Lt. Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter, was given 14 months to raise $3.2 million. Six months later he had collected $3.8 million. About 150 of the area's wealthier sports fanatics gave $65,000 each for a lifetime seat in both the basketball arena and the football stadium.

Other sources of revenue included concerts involving everybody from the Beach Boys to John Denver, huge contributions by the Bronco Athletic Assn. and funds raised by the student body. The result: the BSU Pavilion, an $18 million structure that already has been paid off several years ahead of schedule.

Example: The BSU football stadium was financed by student revenue. It was built two decades ago with a seating capacity of 14,500. It since has been enlarged to hold 21,500 and there are plans to add additional seats, perhaps as many as 40,000.

Example: BSU athletes needed a weight room. Local businessman J.R. Simplot, who made his fortune in potatoes, donated $300,000 to $400,000 to build what he calls "a muscle shop."

Example: The school never had a marching band. Keith Stein, another local businessman, pledged $250,000 to begin what has become a $1 million permanent endowment for the music program.

Get the idea, Al?

BSU is the only game in town, the only game within a 300-mile radius, and the fans are determined to keep their athletes on an athletic court rather than in a legal court.

Looking around at 18,000 Boisians cheering wildly Saturday night as their heroes conducted a public execution of the Matadors, BSU President John Keiser proudly proclaimed, "Coming to a game is about the best thing you can do here on a Saturday night."

No argument there. This is, after all, a town with an announcement in big letters on a downtown marquee heralding the coming of a one-night only "How-To-Do-Your-Own-Wallpapering Clinic."

You take your thrills where you can get them and, for the people of Boise, the winning of a I-AA football championship has been the zenith of a program that has suffered only one losing season since 1946. The championship was won in 1980 when BSU defeated Eastern Kentucky.

The highlight in basketball was last spring when the Broncos qualified for the NIT and beat Utah in the first round before losing to Washington by five points.

No big deal?

Here the fans turn out in orange sweaters and blue pants--the Broncos' colors--emulating both the color scheme and insanity of those other Bronco fans, the ones in Denver who saw their team reach the Super Bowl last season.

Broncomania is alive and well in Boise.

"We are as crazy about this team as other towns get over a pro team," Butch Otter said. "We get euphoric."

And it's not just the hard core.

"When we have a football game," longtime rooter Don Kopple said, "twenty percent of the population of this town is right here. You can't get a baby-sitter. You can't get into a restaurant around here before or after a game. There is no other game in town."

Got the message, Al, baby? Everything's negotiable.

All but one point, that is. Could you live with Howie Long in orange and blue?

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