To fully appreciate the Paul J. Schneider experience, you have to listen to him tell a story.
Whether it’s his telling of Duane Dlouhy’s game-winning touchdown catch in the 1980 I-AA football national championship game or his recounting of Bart Hendricks’ 77-yard touchdown run against UTEP in the 2000 Humanitarian Bowl, Schneider is a bank vault filled with blue-and-orange memories.
Each transcendent moment in Boise State history seems to involve Schneider’s signature, scruffy voice. His Twitter biography, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, refers to him as the “All-seeing keeper of the Boise State flame.”
Schneider, 74, was the Boise State football and men’s basketball radio play-by-play announcer from 1973 through the end of the 2008 basketball season. He began work at KBOI in 1967, moved exclusively to radio in 1976 and recently celebrated his 50th year broadcasting in Boise.
Few, however, know Schneider is a University of Idaho alumnus who was born in Freeport, Ill. Fewer still know he got married the Friday night before a football game on the road in Reno in November 1987.
Schneider’s wife of almost 30 years, Tamara, has been with her husband every step of the way. The road trips, the plane rides, the ups and the downs. With a family intact, Schneider easily could walk away from the radio.
But he’s not quite ready to give up the dream he’s had since middle school.
“My seventh-grade prediction had me broadcasting the World Series. Lofty goal,” Schneider said with his signature hearty laugh. “I didn’t make it, but whatever.”
Schneider recently looked back on his career — and future — with the Idaho Statesman. Here’s a portion of that interview. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Did you ever think Boise State would become what it is?
“Boise State, when I first got there, was (Division II). Basketball was pretty well settled. You played your Weber States, you played these guys. But football, man, you played ... Whitworth, Cal State Northridge, Humboldt State. … It was a collection of have-nots.
“One of the strangest things people ask me about (is) big wins, and of course you go, you have the big (Fiesta Bowl) wins, the (I-AA) national championship game … (But) one of the biggest games ever at Boise State was when Pokey Allen (was the football coach). ... Pokey Allen had such a great influence on me as far as work ethic goes. He was very, very sick for a long, long time with cancer.
“His last win was the next to the last game of the season against New Mexico State in Las Cruces. A guy named Ryan Ikebe caught a touchdown pass with like a minute left. … And then the next week Idaho beat them by like 60. And then three or four weeks after that, Pokey died. But that was a major, major win.
“Wins like that, I think, that kind of defined this school.”
Do you remember all the big games? Are you the kind of guy that remembers scores?
“It depends what happened. I’m a moment guy. … Ryan Ikebe’s catch in that game really stuck out to me. Of course, obviously, the big three plays (in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl), Dlouhy’s catch.
“People (stick out to me). Crazy people. Crazy people stick out. … There are guys that will long be remembered in the BSU football program that really never on the field contributed much, but right off the field, they contributed a lot.”
What was your favorite team to cover or be a part of?
“Obviously, the team that won the (2007 Fiesta Bowl) game was. … They were really, really good. But the best team, as far as fun, was a team full of local guys … The I-AA national championship team was fun. They were a bunch of local guys … with long hair. And they beat some pretty good teams. They won the championship game against Eastern Kentucky in 1980 in Sacramento. That was a good team.
“(Dan) Hawkins’ teams, they were good. Dirk Koetter’s teams were kind of the transitional teams (and) were better teams. But they weren’t, ‘Man, I have to go see those guys.’ Hawkins’ teams weren’t that much better than Koetter’s teams, but you said, ‘Man, I have to go see those guys’ because they were good in terms of attitude, coaching attitude. … We were gunslingers. It was awesome.”
You’ve been doing this for 50 years. Why keep doing it?
“It’s interesting. I don’t think about it much. I think I’m getting close. I don’t need the money, everything’s paid for. I don’t know ... I think a lot of it is identity. But I think I’m at a point, or very, very near a point, where I can step away.”
What is going to make you say, ‘It’s time?’
“That’s a very good question. I think I’ll just know. Here’s my deal: I live up on a ridge above Boise, and I can hear the crowd from my house. And I’m thinking, the first Saturday afternoon ... I walk out in the backyard and hear that crowd and I’m not there, it’s going to weird me out. I think that will be a seminal moment.”
The press box at Albertsons Stadium is named after you. Everyone in Boise knows you. Does that mean something to you?
“I think it means something in molding me into the fabric of what was. We’re a part of history. ... I think that being recognized ... means you were part of something and were here long enough to make it a meaningful part of something. Would it bother me if it wasn’t named after me? Probably not a great deal. I like it being named after me, but it doesn’t get me free coffee.
“I’ve known every sportswriter that’s come through here the last 50 years. They all tease me about it.”
Like you said, it does seem like it’s the people who matter ...
“I was thinking about this the other day. How many people have sent pictures of themselves standing in front of my press box and my name on it, always smiling and all this stuff. I’m not sure I have a picture (of myself). ... I must have pictures of 300 people who just want to say, ‘hey.’ And I guess that means something to me. ‘I was at your press box.’ That’s cool.”
Did you ever think a Vandal would become synonymous with Boise State?
“No. For a myriad of reasons, it’s best left unsaid.”