Boise State will revive its athletics Hall of Fame induction on April 13 — the first class of Bronco legends in 11 years.
Given that Boise State requires athletes to be five years past their graduation date to become eligible, no player from the 2002 through 2017 run of football success — a stretch that includes all 11 of the Broncos’ Top 25 seasons, the three Fiesta Bowl championships, the first four first-round NFL Draft picks and every Football Bowl Subdivision All-American in school history — has been eligible before.
Same goes for six of the 10 athletes to win individual national championships.
And off the field, you’ve got President Bob Kustra, former Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier, former football coach Chris Petersen and retired sports information director Max Corbet who all will land in the hall at some point.
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So the challenge the selection committee faces isn’t identifying candidates but paring the list to a manageable number that retains the special feeling of the honor. Clearly, many deserving candidates will have to wait for the next class — hopefully only a couple years away instead of a decade.
Boise State has inducted 16 classes since 1982. It was an annual event in the early years but slowed to every three years in the mid-1990s. The largest class was nine in the inaugural year when, like now, there was a lot of catching up to do. That class included the 1958 junior college national championship football team, the 1980 Division I-AA national championship football team, football coaches Lyle Smith and Tony Knap, football stars Dave Wilcox, Jim McMillan, Edward Lodge and Larry Jackson and national champion skier Billy Shaw.
Since then, classes have included up to seven inductees.
The community can nominate Hall of Fame inductees through Jan. 1 at broncosports.com/hallfame. Former athletes must be five years removed from earning their undergraduate degree at Boise State.
Here’s who I would include in the class of 2018:
▪ Football: The accomplishments of three teams in the FBS era stand above the others, and each should be included in this induction: 2002, the first Top 25 season for the Broncos, ending with the program’s first win against a power-conference team; 2006, the Fiesta Bowl champions who put Boise State on the national map; and 2009, the 14-0 team that finished a school-record No. 4 in the polls.
Inducting the 2006 football team as a whole is a no-brainer. You can’t restart the hall of fame without that group. Some stars from that team likely will be inducted eventually, including left tackle Ryan Clady (consensus All-American, school’s first first-round draft pick), tailback Ian Johnson (the eighth-place finisher in Heisman Trophy voting in 2006) and linebacker Korey Hall (four-year starter and 2006 WAC Defensive Player of the Year).
Inducting quarterback Kellen Moore to represent the 2009 team also is a no-brainer. The four-year starter was a Heisman finalist in 2010 and he left his mark all over the school, WAC, Mountain West and NCAA record books, as well as becoming one of the most popular Broncos ever. He threw 142 touchdown passes — 60 more than any other Bronco — and posted the lowest interception ratio in school history. The 2009 team will go in as a group eventually, perhaps in the next class.
The representative of the 2002 team is trickier. I see three candidates: quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie, who holds NCAA records for most yards per pass attempt and per completion in a career; tailback Brock Forsey, whose 32 touchdowns in 2002 still is tied for third-most in FBS history and who accumulated a school-record 6,670 all-purpose yards — 1,354 more than No. 2 on the school list, Hall of Famer Cedric Minter; and safety Quintin Mikell, the top tackler in the school’s FBS era, the 2000 Big West co-defensive MVP and the 2002 WAC Defensive Player of the Year (Moore and Hall of Fame QB Bart Hendricks are the only other multi-year players of the year). All three will get in eventually but I’d start with Mikell because of what he represented: An overlooked recruit who was ticked that he didn’t get to play in the Pac-10, he helped develop the attitude that carried the Broncos to incredible success in the 2000s and built a successful NFL career after going undrafted. “I will remember the intangible things, his humility, his work ethic, his sacrifice, his desire to win, more than all the stats and all those other things,” then-coach Dan Hawkins said leading up to Mikell’s final college game.
▪ National champs: All previously eligible national champs have been inducted. That leaves six who haven’t. Two — Emma Bates (10,000-meter run) and Allie Ostrander (3,000-meter steeplechase) — aren’t eligible yet and should be inducted in future years. That leaves Gabe Wallin (javelin, 2004-05), Ben Cherrington (wrestling, 157 pounds, 2006), Eleni Kafourou (indoor long jump, 2009) and Kurt Felix (decathlon, 2012). Wallin, the only two-time champ in school history, has to be included in this class. Kafourou is the top female candidate for this class, so she will be in. You could stop there and add Cherrington and Felix next time, or just induct all four now. Let’s put them all in.
▪ Other athletes: I’d like to see Tanoka Beard inducted, but he has been held out over the graduation requirement. While I appreciate the emphasis on a degree, Beard’s career ended a quarter-century ago. It’s probably time to let that go — and he wouldn’t be the first non-graduate inducted. Beard was the 1990 Big Sky Freshman of the Year, a three-time All-Big Sky pick, the 1993 Big Sky tournament MVP, a two-time winner of the Jeff Foster Memorial Award that goes to the program’s most unselfish player and he remains the Broncos’ all-time leading scorer (he led the team in scoring all four of his seasons).
Golfer Graham DeLaet also should be in this class. The 2006 WAC Player of the Year is the only Bronco with multiple NCAA regional appearances (2003, 2004, 2006) and he holds career records for top-10 finishes (26), top-25 finishes (37) and wins (10). And he’s followed that with a successful career on the PGA Tour. Fellow PGA Tour member Troy Merritt, a transfer who had a shorter career but the greatest season in school history (seven wins in 2007-08), is a future candidate.
▪ Non-athletes: Induct Gene Bleymaier — the man who installed the blue turf, oversaw the rise to prominence of the football program and figured out how to pay for exploding costs to keep the football program growing. It would be awkward because he was fired by Kustra, who surely will be at the induction ceremony. But Kustra likely will be inducted in the next class, so waiting doesn’t necessarily help. Putting Kustra in now, before he actually retires, doesn’t seem right. And Petersen, who won national coach of the year awards in three different seasons at Boise State, likely will go in down the road, perhaps when he retires. Another name to consider here: former men’s basketball coach Bobby Dye, who won 213 games from 1983 to 1995.
That’s an incredible class of 10 — and there are so many more waiting in the wings. Future possibilities, other than those already mentioned (note that some of these athletes aren’t yet eligible):
Football: Offensive tackle Nate Potter (consensus All-American), tailback Jay Ajayi (fourth-most rushing yards in a career and most in a season, tied with Forsey for most TDs in a season), wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck (most receiving yards in a career by more than 500), defensive lineman Shea McClellin (most tackles for loss in FBS era, second-highest NFL Draft pick).
Men’s basketball: Derrick Marks (2015 Mountain West Player of the Year, fourth in career points), Anthony Drmic (second in career points, two behind Beard).
Gymnastics: Lindsay Ward (top all-around score in school history, most bars wins, most beam wins, six conference titles), Amy Glass (second in career all-around wins, second-best all-around at NCAA meet).
Women’s soccer: Brooke Heidemann (four-time first-team All-Mountain West), Brittany Zoellner (2000 Big West Player of the Year, second-leading scorer in school history), Shannon Saxton (all-time leading scorer, first-team All-WAC twice).
Softball: Devon Bridges (career leader in hits, homers, RBIs, total bases and walks by wide margins).
Women’s basketball: Tasha Harris (second-leading scorer in school history, third in assists), Brooke Pahukoa (two-time All-Mountain West, two-time Mountain West tournament MVP).
Swimming and diving: Amber Boucher (three-time conference swimmer of the year).
Volleyball: Sierra Nobley (Set Mountain West career record for kills, four-time all-conference, 2016 Mountain West Player of the Year).
Men’s tennis: Luke Shields (three-time All-American).
Chadd Cripe is the Idaho Statesman sports editor. Contact him at ccripe@ idahostatesman.com, 208-377-6398 or @chaddcripe on Twitter.