This Day In Sports: The Broncos’ original national championship

November 27, 1958, 65 years ago today: Boise Junior College wins the national JC championship with a 22-0 win over Tyler, Texas, before 8,500 fans on Thanksgiving Day at old Bronco Stadium to finish a 10-0 season. The Broncos were coached by Lyle Smith, who recorded his fifth undefeated campaign with the win. BJC nailed the visiting Apaches with a safety 38 seconds into the game and never looked back. The Broncos scored touchdowns in each of the first three quarters, and the defense nabbed four interceptions while recording its fourth shutout of the year.

BJC put up three 50-point games in 1958—a lot for that era of offense. The Broncos outscored their opponents 411-67. They were ranked No. 1 in both of the major junior college ratings services. But the season still ended in disappointment. The only two states that weren’t members of the NJCAA were California and Washington, and it was in California that the Junior Rose Bowl was played.

Boise Junior College expected a bid to the game, but bowl officials weren’t beholden to the NJCAA and chose Northeastern Oklahoma instead. The Broncos and their fans were outraged. There was another prominent junior college bowl game in California, the Potato Bowl (ironically) in Bakersfield. Officials of that game wanted BJC, which had played there the year before. But the Broncos held out for the Junior Rose Bowl berth that never came, and by that time it was too late for Bakersfield.

Smith, who will forever be known as the “Father of Bronco Football,” had compiled the best roster of his 21 seasons at BJC. He had a connection with the Islands, and the 1958 team featured eight Hawaiians, including All-American halfback Herb Halliwell and star lineman and co-captain Harry Kealoha. Smith’s career record at BJC was 156-26-6 and included a 37-game winning streak from 1947-50. He retired from coaching after the 1967 season and became the first athletic director for Boise State College. Smith was a beloved figure on campus until the day he died in July, 2018, at the age of 101.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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