Lyle H. Smith, the son of Burrel F. Smith and Addie (Humphrey) Smith, was born March 17, 1916, in the rural town of Steptoe, Washington. He attended Moscow High School in Moscow, Idaho, where he was actively involved in sports, playing varsity football and basketball for two consecutive years. Smith distinguished himself in both sports and for his efforts he was awarded a high school letter for each. In 1933 and 1934, Smith helped the basketball team win the coveted title of State Champions, and represented Moscow High School on the “All State Team” in 1933.
On May 23, 1934, Smith graduated from Moscow High School. That fall, he entered the University of Idaho Southern Branch in Pocatello as a physical education major and graduated from the U of I in Moscow in 1939 with a Bachelor of Science in Education with a minor in history. He was the center for the U of I football team and guard for the basketball team. Smith then began a lifelong career of teaching and coaching. From 1939-1949, he taught social sciences and physical education, coached athletics, and served as the “M” club advisor at Moscow High School.
Smith’s career changed with the start of World War II. In June of 1942, Smith was notified of his acceptance into the Naval Reserve and went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis to start the V-5 Physical Fitness Instructor Course. After completing course, Smith was assigned to the Navy’s Pre-Flight School at St. Mary’s College in California as a Physical Training Officer. In 1943 he transferred to the U.S. Naval Air Station in Livermore, California where he instructed Aviation Cadets in physical education and standard military training. In 1944, Smith was reassigned to Pearl Harbor where he worked at the Naval Supply Depot and supervised the handling of supply lines cargo. On November 1, 1945 he was released from active duty and transferred back to the United States.
Taking advantage of the GI Bill, Smith returned to the University of Idaho for graduate school. His professional paper was titled “A Recreational Program for the Youth of a City under 10,000 Population,” and he received a Master of Science in Education in 1946.
In 1946, Smith came to BJC as assistant to head football coach Harry Jacoby. A year later, Jacoby resigned and Smith became the head coach, a position he held until 1967. In 1949, the team played in the Kern County Shrine Potato Bowl, where in front of 12,000 fans BJC upset Taft Junior College 25 to 7. In the middle of the 1950 football season, Smith was called back into military service for the Korean War but resumed coaching duties in 1952. In 1958, BJC defeated Tyler College of Texas, winning the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship and became the number one junior college football team in the country. In his 21 years as head football coach, Smith’s teams remained a dominant figure in the Intermountain Collegiate Athletic Conference winning the conference title 16 out of 21 times, with an impressive record of 158 wins, 25 losses, and 6 ties, and seven post-season Junior College Bowl Games. In addition to football, Smith also coached baseball.
In 1968 Smith started as the Director of Athletics. His first task was to oversee the demolition of the old wooden stadium to make way for a new stadium, completed in 1970. In the 1970s, Smith worked with Connie Thorngren, Women’s Athletic Director, to establish intercollegiate women’s sports. Towards the end of his career, Smith helped plan the construction of a new basketball and events arena, the Pavilion (now Taco Bell Arena). Smith was a strong proponent of the facility seating at least 12,000, which would later be crucial to the school’s ability to host NCAA Basketball Tournaments.
At the November 8, 1980 football game against Nevada-Reno, President John Keiser dedicated the field in Bronco Stadium (now Albertsons Stadium) as Lyle Smith Field to honor Smith’s “integrity and commitment to student athletes at Boise State University.” The next year, Smith retired as Athletic Director and transitioned into a Bronco Legend. The Bronco Athletic Association, Alumni Association, and community supported Smith’s legacy by establishing the Lyle Smith Golf Classic.
In his retirement, Smith remained an active supporter of Boise State athletics and tradition. For over 30 years, he attended reunion events for past football teams and alumni. On March 17, 2016 the community congratulated his 100th birthday.
Lyle Smith passed away on July 26, 2017.