Boise State Football

Former Boise State boss Gene Bleymaier returns home, watches game on his beloved blue

Gene Bleymaier, the former Boise State athletic director, introduced blue turf to the college football world in 1986. He returned to Boise for Friday night’s game against San Jose State, where he’s now the athletic director.
Gene Bleymaier, the former Boise State athletic director, introduced blue turf to the college football world in 1986. He returned to Boise for Friday night’s game against San Jose State, where he’s now the athletic director. Statesman file

Former Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier was the architect and driving force behind the creation of Boise State’s iconic blue field in 1986.

On Friday night, Bleymaier saw it from an opposing point of view.

Though he’s now a Spartan, the current San Jose State athletic director said he will always have a special place in his heart for the Broncos and the blue.

“I still like it,” Bleymaier said with a smile. “And the Spartans are blue and gold, so it fits right in with our school colors. And it’s good to see it again.”

Bleymaier served as Boise State’s athletic director from 1982-2011. During his tenure, Boise State went from a successful FCS football program to a national brand in the FBS ranks. The success wasn’t limited to football, though: the Broncos had 33 top-25 finishes in nine different sports under his watch.

“There’s so many great memories that we have about this place. So many great people and great friends and family. So, it’s really been about saying hello to a lot of great people, a lot of friendships that you’re blessed with over a 30-year period. And a lot of great memories,” Bleymaier said. “You want your efforts to hopefully mean something. And certainly Boise State has done fantastic and is something to be proud of.”

Bleymaier was fired in 2011 after NCAA violations in football, men’s and women’s tennis and track and field were found to have occurred under his watch. He was named San Jose State’s athletic director in 2012 and has seen his success in Boise carry over. The Spartans have won conference championships in women’s soccer, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis and softball since his hiring.

Despite leaving under less-than-ideal circumstances, Bleymaier’s legacy is still readily apparent within the Bronco community. The football program’s state-of-the-art football complex, the Bleymaier Football Center, was named in his honor in August 2013.

Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, who was a player and assistant coach for the Broncos when Bleymaier was athletic director, spoke to his former boss before the game and said they have maintained a relationship.

“Every time I see Gene, I have a special place for him. He was here when I got an opportunity to play. He was here when I got an opportunity to coach,” Harsin said. “I think every time we see each other, we share that mutual respect.

“And he’s still proud of this place. And to have his name on a building here says a lot about all the years that he spent here. He spent a lot of years here and did a lot of great things. This blue field out here is a part of that, too.”

Bleymaier said he has no ill will toward Boise State and enjoyed seeing old friends and colleagues prior to the game.

“I’m bumping into someone it seems like every 30 seconds. So it’s been busy, but it’s been great to see everybody,” Bleymaier said. “There’s no animosity. We had a very good experience here, and I’m proud of being a part of what Boise State has accomplished. And I’ll always treasure that.”

Michael Katz: 208-377-6444, @MichaelLKatz

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