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Blue Collar: Avalos, Dickey and the dawn of a new era for Boise State Athletics

Andy Avalos with football
Andy Avalos. Photo by John Kelly, Illustration by Daniel Saline

For Andy Avalos, returning to Boise State as the football program’s new coach was more than just an upward career move: It was a return to his roots.

Avalos has a rich history on “The Blue.” He served as a team captain and all-conference linebacker from 2000-2004, and later as a member of the coaching staff from 2012-2018, when he showcased his knack for developing college athletes into National Football League standouts like Leighton Vander Esch of the Dallas Cowboys.

Touching down on campus in January 2021 following a two-year stint as the University of Oregon’s defensive coordinator, Avalos knew he was in the right place.

Coach Avalos addresses his team during spring practice
Coach Avalos addresses his team during spring practice | Photo by Tyler McFarland

“To be able to lead my alma mater’s football program and already be invested in this community with a great group of men and coaching staff, it was a no-brainer,” Avalos said.

Just prior to Avalos’ return, the university named Jeramiah Dickey as its athletics director. Dickey arrived from Baylor University where he served as the associate vice president for intercollegiate athletics. Beyond the trajectory of Bronco athletics, Boise State’s passion for innovation and community impact, coupled with the city’s vibrancy, resonated with him.

“There are unbelievable opportunities here,” Dickey said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation with an elite athletic program, and I’m extremely grateful.”

Within the first 48 hours on the job, Dickey was tasked with selecting Boise State’s head football coach. Recruiting a bright mind with plenty of coaching experience was certainly important, but Dickey also sought a coach who could develop student-athletes on and off the field – athletes to represent the university and show it in its best light. A passion for the community was critical, while a previous history at Boise State was desired. Avalos checked all the boxes.

The football program’s weight room in the Bleymaier Football Center | Photo by Tyler McFarland

A common theme throughout Boise State athletics is the “blue collar mentality,” a mantra that drives its student-athletes and coaches to remain humble and hungry, never forgetting the work needed to meet high standards and achieve team goals. The mindset stuck with Avalos even as he experienced different programs across the country.

“From the time your two feet hit the ground in the morning, the blue collar mentality is about how your self-confidence and your self-discipline lead to you being able to execute and overcome whatever is in front of you, and ultimately, find the joy in doing that regardless of the circumstances,” he said. “And so now, to be able to create an environment where we can expand this mentality, it all starts with having a chip on your shoulder. It’s also about being humble at the same time.”

This mentality exists throughout the university, according to Avalos. He referenced the many alumni who found careers within various sectors of campus – something he says is very unique.

Avalos is focused on building a successful, highly competitive football team. But his goals don’t stop there. He is passionate about preparing his players for what’s next, a core value that he and Dickey shared during the interview process.

“I want to make an immediate impact on people’s lives and help them feel like they are invested in something bigger than themselves, and how they can focus on growing themselves as individuals to have an impact every single day,” Avalos said. “The number one goal is for our men to be great husbands, great fathers and great teachers.”

Dickey and Avalos said they feel an undeniable energy in the air, spurring them to tackle new challenges.

Back inside the department’s offices, Dickey is making improvements for the health and safety of his staff, and the athletes and coaches, focusing on mental health. He’s also committed to improving how students connect and engage with sports programs. Although the COVID-19 pandemic upset the student and fan experience and overall operations this past year, Dickey hopes to give fans an even greater sense of pride for Boise State.

“I want our students to feel it. I want them to experience that level of pride and then put up their diploma on the wall,” Dickey added. “The connection is something that I take very seriously. I’m a passionate guy and it excites me.”

Avalos, Dickey and Tromp after Avalos’ plane landed in Boise | Jake King, Idaho Press

“In my 35 years in higher education, I have never heard references speak so uniformly and so glowingly about a candidate. They praised Jeramiah Dickey to the skies. References told me they’d never given anyone higher, or better marks.

And in hiring Andy Avalos, we acknowledge tradition – Andy’s deep roots in the Bronco community – while we keep our forward momentum and confidence in his leadership of our beloved football team. This is a new era for Boise State.”

—President Marlene Tromp