MISSOULA, Mont. — Pokey Allen, the exuberant coach who rebuilt the Boise State University football program and resigned this month as cancer overtook him, died Monday at 53.
Allen died at 4:30 a.m. in a Missoula hospital, 24 hours after he went into a coma. A funeral will take place Wednesday in Missoula.
Allen had returned to Missoula to spend the holidays with his mother, sister and daughter when he collapsed the day after Christmas. The tumor in his chest had grown quickly and involved more than 90% of his lungs, said Carolyn Collins, his oncologist in Boise, Idaho.
Allen was diagnosed with the rare and aggressive form of muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma in 1994, only two days after leading the Broncos to the NCAA Division I-AA championship game.
After months of treatment, including a stem cell transplant in June 1995, Allen returned to coach the Broncos to a 7-4 season in 1995. But he again took a medical leave last August after finding new tumors forming in his chest and lungs.
Allen underwent alternative treatment in Vancouver for much of that medical leave before returning to coach the final two Boise State games this fall.
He resigned Dec. 11 after tests revealed the cancer cells were again active.
Allen, whose real first name was Ernest, was born in Superior, Mont., graduated from Missoula County High in 1962 and went on to star in football at Utah.