By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
Former Boise State football coach Tony Knap died Saturday night in Pullman, Wash. He was 96.
Knap, who had Alzheimer’s, lived at a retirement home with his wife, Mickey. Their 70th wedding anniversary was in April.
Knap was a key cog in the growth of Boise State football. He was hired by former coach and athletic director Lyle Smith out of the Canadian Football League to lead the Broncos through the transition from junior college to four-year football.
Smith’s final season was in 1967, the last year of junior college football. Knap — a former teammate of Smith’s at Idaho — took over in 1968 and posted a 71-19-1 record before leaving for UNLV after the 1975 season. His 78.6 winning percentage ranks third in Boise State history behind current coach Chris Petersen (64-5, 92.8, since 2006) and Dan Hawkins (53-11, 82.8, 2001-05).
Knap’s teams won the Camellia Bowl in 1971 and three straight Big Sky Conference titles from 1973 to 1975. The Broncos reached the Division II semifinals in 1973.
Knap, who was from Milwaukee, Wis., was inducted into the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982.
“Tony had a great mind for offensive football,” Smith said. “He opened up the game. He split the guys out all over the field. They threw the ball and made it interesting. It was a change from the old head-knocking days.”
Petersen said Knap was the only former Broncos coach, dating to Smith, that he hadn’t met. But he knew Knap’s reputation through meeting the former players who still live in the Treasure Valley.
“It seems like the guys that, at functions, I run into are the guys that played for Lyle and Tony Knap,” Petersen said. “… I know that they all loved that guy and thought that he was an awesome, awesome coach and person.”
Former Boise State player Ivan Rounds of Potlatch visited Knap at the retirement home every three or four weeks. He was a redshirt on Knap’s last Boise State team.
One of Knap’s first coaching jobs was at Potlatch High. When Rounds visited, Knap would ask where he was from and react immediately to the answer.
“He would light right up,” Rounds said. “He would remember the house he lived in, his neighbors. He would describe things that were still there.”
As a player, Rounds remembers Knap walking through the locker room and asking players about their family members by name.
“He was such a gentleman,” Rounds said. “… He took the time to ask about everybody and I think he was genuinely interested.”
Knap won 47 games at UNLV from 1976 to 1981, still a school record. His record was 47-20-2.
Knap also was 25-14-1 at Utah State from 1963 to 1966 for an overall college record of 143-53-4.
Here is a story the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote on Knap earlier this year. Knap also coached at UNLV.