In 35 years, Young made his mark on wrestling, golf " and so much more
The Idaho Statesman
Mike Young vividly remembers 1970 " the year he started working at Boise State.
"I was 25 years old, and I remember driving into Boise and pulling off what is now Broadway Avenue and looking at the city, "he said. "I remember I had a mixture of excitement and fear. I was excited about the new job, but I also was scared, wondering 'Am I going to do a good job here?' "
Thirty-five years later, the answer to Young's question is a resounding yes.
Young, 60, is retiring after serving as wrestling coach, golf coach, physical education teacher, friend to many in the athletic department and unofficial fund-raiser of millions of dollars. His last official function is next week's Bronco-Vandal golf tournament in New Meadows.
Young, a former wrestling champion at Idaho Falls High and BYU, leaves as the longest tenured coach in BSU history.
"Boise State has been his life, "athletic director Gene Bleymaier said. "He dedicated his life to the student-athletes in our program. We're a much better institution because of Mike Young."
Young is most known for being the Broncos' wrestling coach for 32 years, until he left that sport after the 2002 season. He is in the BSU Hall of Fame as a wrestling coach, for building the program from scratch and making it an elite Pac-10 program.
Young produced 12 conference championship teams, 11 All-Americans, one national champion (Kirk White in 1999) and won 12 coach of the year honors. BSU finished 10th in the NCAA Championships in 1999 and 2001.
"What he accomplished was really astonishing, "said Boise-based federal judge Stephen Trott, a supporter of the Bronco program who married Young and his wife, Shawna, in Modesto, Calif. "He took a small-time program and just kicked everyone's butt."
Trott is one of many people who call Young a friend. There are hundreds who do so " ex-athletes, co-workers, students and boosters.
Many of them say the same thing " Young was a great coach, a good friend and easy to make fun of because he used to dye his hair.
"I've known him for 22 of those years, "said Carey McNeal, a former BSU golfer. "That guy was able to traverse that line between coach and friend better than anyone I ever knew. He could be respected, yet you knew if you had a problem or needed something, you could go to Mike."
McNeal is an active participant and organizer of the annual Bronco-Vandal golf tournament, which serves a fund-raiser for the schools' golf programs. He'll be in New Meadows for next week's event.
"I think this will be kind of a melancholy year, "McNeal said.
Young's time in Boise was anything but sad.
"So many friends, so many memories, almost all good memories "is how Young describes his 35 years with the Broncos.
Two of his favorite memories: Winning the Pac-10 wrestling crown in his final season " without a senior in the starting lineup " and the two years he lived with former BSU football coach Pokey Allen.
Young still lives in the same condominium that he and Allen shared in the mid-1990s and plans on keeping the home even though he is off to California to live with his wife and their two children.
Allen, the popular football coach who died of cancer in 1996, and Young were basically inseparable and notorious for their practical jokes and adventures together.
"He and Pokey used to have a go-around with each other, "said BSU athletic trainer Gary Craner, who arrived in Boise one year after Young. "They were always pulling gags on each other."
Young, who delivered the eulogy at Allen's funeral in Missoula, Mont., remembers how popular Allen was in Boise.
"I used to tell people that I'd been here for about 25 years and Pokey's been here a year, and I'm now known as Pokey Allen's roommate, "Young said.
Around the athletic department, everyone has a Mike Young tale.
The one story that is still told happened in the 1970s when Young, at a Boise State football game, put on the Bronco mascot's costume and beat up the Idaho Vandals' mascot after it hurt the real BSU mascot.
"Our mascot at the time was a little girl, "Craner said. "The Vandal would throw her to the ground and beat her with the sword, just really destroying her. She was crying.
"At halftime, Mike jumped into the suit and went over there and the Vandal comes over to take care of our mascot again, and Mike grabbed the sword and started wrestling. He took care of the Vandal pretty good."
Young also has been instrumental in fund-raising for BSU. He is close friends with top boosters Allen Noble and Harvey Neef.
Young worked with Noble to secure money for the Allen Noble Hall of Fame Gallery that's linked to Bronco Stadium.
"He's just about the finest person that ever was, "Noble said. "You'll just never meet a finer guy."
McNeal said Young's personality made donating money easier.
"He has a way about making you feel that you needed to make a contribution, "McNeal said. "He would always say that he couldn't ask for money, but he certainly was able to do it in his friendly way. It always felt like you wanted to help Mike out because he was that kind of guy."
Former BSU wrestler Charles Burton, an All-American at BSU who placed fifth at the 2000 Summer Olympics, said he owes a lot his success to his former coach.
"He got the most he could out of every wrestler he had, "Burton said. "He was a great influence on me. I can't say enough about the guy."
Young, who was hired at a salary of $8,000 in 1970, said he's amazed at how far the BSU program has come.
"One of the biggest changes is just how competitive Boise State has become in all sports, "Young said. "Now you're not expected just to run a program, but you're expected to be the best in the conference."
So what did Young's golf team do in his final tournament " the WAC championships last month?
"Gene Bleymaier reminded me of that when we got back, "Young said. "He held up 10 fingers (for the place BSU finished) and said 'Is this true?' I said, 'Unfortunately it is.' He said, 'You're fired.' "
It wasn't the note Young wanted to exit on, but he said next year's Broncos are set up to win a WAC title. Top player Graham DeLaet redshirted this season, they return WAC Freshman of the Year Matt Hastings, and BSU hosts the tournament.
The original plan was for Young to retire after next year's golf season, but his wife got a job as a professor at Cal State Stanislaus.
Leaving Boise won't be easy.
"I've been here for more than half of my life, "he said. "It's going to be something I am going to have to work through.
"I love Boise, and I love Boise State. There are going to be some times that I am going to wish that I was back here."