Historians tell us Boise State University began as Boise Junior College in 1932. The internet tells a different story. According to the world wide web, the beginning was forty years earlier, in 1892. The "net" says the school, which was to become Boise State, was an Episcopal all girls school by the name of St. Margaret's Hall, offering classical advanced education in nursing and teaching.
The school was one of two early colleges in the Boise area. The College of Idaho was the other, now Albertson College, a Presbyterian school that found it's way from the Wood River Valley to Caldwell in 1891.
Boise Junior College, rather St. Mags' as it was called, almost didn't happen. By 1932 the school was in serious trouble. The depression and competition from public schools had created what appeared to be unsolvable financial hardship. Episcopal Bishop Middleton Stewart Barnwell arrived in Boise from Birmingham, Alabama, to hopefully right the ship. He took over management of the school, then called a secondary girls academy.
Barnwell saw a solution. St. Margaret's Hall should be converted to a college. There was no competition in Boise at that level of education. He believed that a junior college located in Boise would enable local high school graduates to start their post secondary education without out-of-state costs. The Episcopal Church agreed with Barnwell. By February 1932 at the height of the Depression, the Bishop began his crusade. He approached many in the Boise area for donations, with little luck. The Episcopalian Church stepped forward, found the money, and Barnwell went to work on his concept.
He spent the summer of 1932 writing curriculum, recruiting faculty and building benches in the science lab. St. Margaret's Hall officially became Boise Junior College on September 6, 1932. The school, located on Idaho Street between First and Second, opened it's doors to 70 students and fourteen faculty members; eight full-time and six part-time. Boise Junior College leased St. Margaret's Hall for one dollar a year.
Bishop Barnwell's vision was instrumental in establishing the institution that would later emerge as Boise State University. He was founder and first president from 1932 until 1934 when he stepped down, recommending that Boise Junior College leave the control of the Episcopalian Church and become a public institution. The Bishop Barnwell Room, a multi purpose facility named in his honor, is located near the Appleton Tennis Center on the Boise State campus.
The following is the history of Boise State's chain of schools.
1892-1932 St Margaret's Hall, an Episcopal academy for women.
1932-1934 Boise Junior College, an Episcopalian college.
1934-1965 Boise Junior College, a secular public institution.
1965-1969 Boise College
1969-1974 Boise State college
1974 The college officially became Boise State University
When was the first athletic event? History doesn't say, or rather Google failed us. More than likely it was between The St. Margaret's Hall Valkyries, and the Lady ‘Yotes of the College of Idaho (now Albertson College), then a Presbyterian school founded in 1891. Or it could have been against the University of Idaho, which opened with 40 students on October 3, 1892. We know that 1892 marked the beginning of women's collegiate sports in America. Women first played basketball in 1892 at Smith College in Northampton, MA. The first intercollegiate tennis invitational for women was held the same year at Bryn Mawr College. Most colleges turned down the invitation. There was a fear women could not handle the competitive nature of sports.
Back to football. When did Boise play their first game? The answer, 1933. And the brand spanking new little junior college team from Idaho quickly became a national powerhouse.
Boise Junior College played in the Potato Bowl in Bakersfield, California in 1949, 1951,1954,1957 and again in 1965. In 1950 Boise Junior College played Long Beach City College in the biggest Junior college bowl in the country, the Junior Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
The team competed against most of the power programs on the Pacific Coast ending their junior college football era (1933-1967) with a record of 199 wins, 61 losses, and 9 ties, an all-time junior college record.
In 1958, Boise went undefeated winning a junior college national championship under a blue fedora-wearing coach named Lyle Smith. During his 20-year tenure, the school won 82 percent of its games, including a 37-game winning streak.
Perhaps the greatest Bronco success story is Boise Junior College Pro Football Hall of Fame member, 2000 inductee, 6-3, 241 pound Dave Wilcox. He was one of the all-time best outside linebackers in NFL history. Wilcox's accomplishments included All-NFL five times, All-NFC three times, and seven Pro Bowl appearances. He played for Boise Junior College in 1960-61. His son, Justin Wilcox, left the University of California coaching staff in 2005 to become the Defensive Coordinator for the 2006 Broncos.
When did Boise play their first football game as a four-year college? The answer 1968, the year Boise Junior College became Boise College. They joined the Big Sky, then a NCAA Division II conference where they won five conference championships.
Ten years later, 1978, they played their first NCAA Division I-AA football game. Again it was in the Big Sky Conference which moved up to Division I. The Broncos added two more Big Sky Conference championships and a National Championship.
The first year of NCAA Division I football was 1996 when the Broncos moved to the Big West. They won two Big West Conference championships.
The first year in the Western Athletic Conference was 2001. Boise finished third in the WAC behind Louisiana Tech and Fresno. The highlight of the year was the upset of # 8 ranked Fresno State in Fresno, undefeated at the time, headed for a BCS bowl game. The next year the Broncos won the WAC championship, and again in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The four-in-a-row included thirty-one straight WAC conference victories in 2001-2005.
Boise State University history of winning football games is without equal.
The Broncos hold the all-time junior college record (1933-1967): 199 wins, 61 losses, 9 ties, and a National Championship in 1958.
The Broncos hold the all-time NCAA record (1968-2005): 305 wins, 139 losses, 2 ties, and a D-IAA National Championship beating Eastern Kentucky in 1980, 31-29. They reached the National Championship final game again in 1994, losing to Youngstown State, 37-14.
The rich Bronco football history suggests it's only a matter of time before they are knocking on the door of a Division I National Championship.