By Joe Nickell, Boise State University assistant athletic director for communications
With just five games remaining in the 1986 season, Boise State was preparing for its first matchup against a school from the Pacific-10 Conference. At that point, not yet known for slaying giants, the Broncos hadn’t played a single school from a league now considered part of the Power Five.
Boise State had gained some national notoriety following the unveiling of a blue field earlier in the season, but that day the Broncos, then playing in the Big Sky Conference as a member of Division I-AA and six years removed from a national championship, were no match for Oregon State. In what happened to be the first game during Max Corbet’s first week on the job as the sports information director at Boise State, the Broncos fell 34-3 to the Beavers.
Today, differences abound — for both Boise State and for the media relations profession — and Corbet had a front-row seat for an incredible journey. He retired from Boise State earlier this year and just received a Lifetime Achievement Award from College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) at the June convention in Orlando, Florida.
“Everyone who has been in our profession has experienced change,” Corbet said. “Especially today — things just change so fast. But starting with a typewriter and seeing where things are now, and then through the course of one career, seeing the growth one school can go through and the impact it can have on a national scale — and thinking I had a small part that, it’s something I never imagined.”
Following his graduation from Central Missouri State in 1979, he became the sports information director at East Texas State before serving in the same role at Stephen F. Austin from 1981-86. He then joined Boise State in the midst of the first season of The Blue, a gimmick that he initially gawked at but one that would outlast his professional career and ultimately become a source of pride.
“When I first saw that field, I thought, ‘Man, is that thing ugly!,’” Corbet said. “But that field has become one of the most iconic landmarks in college football and something that has defined this program, this school and this state.”
Working a streak of 380-consecutive Bronco football games over the course of nearly 31 years, Corbet witnessed another Boise State run to the I-AA National Championship. In 1996, the Broncos made the move to Division I-A, joining the Big West Conference. Another decade passed and Boise State, now as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, etched itself into football lore as David once again took down Goliath. This time, it was at the Fiesta Bowl on a two-point conversion in overtime as the Broncos defeated Oklahoma in one of college football’s most historic performances.
Once charged with driving to the offices of the local newspaper to hand-deliver copies of his weekly fact sheets, Corbet now found himself on the set of “Good Morning America” ushering both student-athletes to interviews and Boise State onto the national scene. And much like it’s now iconic blue field, Boise State wasn’t going anywhere. The Broncos have since won two more Fiesta Bowls and have been the winningest team in the country since Corbet served as CoSIDA president during the 1999-2000 academic year.
“The growth and everything that came with it is something I will be forever thankful for,” Corbet said. “When I got to Boise State, outside of coaches, there were 15 people on staff. To see what Boise State has become, to be part of everything that has been accomplished here, it’s very special.”
A natural leader, Corbet was ahead of the Boise State curve as far as notoriety was concerned. Boise State didn’t burst onto the national scene until its undefeated 2006 campaign, six years after Corbet served as CoSIDA president. The experience is one that he cherishes, more so than the games.
Despite bearing witness to feats that may never be duplicated, it’s the relationships — with coaches, student-athletes and members of the media — and having the opportunity to serve his peers that allowed Corbet to walk away from a storied career with a smile on his face.
“There were a lot of long, hard hours, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Corbet said. “I was lucky enough to be part of something pretty special.
“Honestly, more than anything, I’m thankful for having the opportunity to go through the officer rotation. It forced me to get involved with things not normally associated with being an SID. From fund raising to programming, it provided me with a learning experience in areas I wasn’t familiar with. That ultimately helped me become a better SID.”
Working nearly 80,000 total hours at Boise State, he has seen graduate assistants go on to become head coaches in the National Football League and Corbet mentored hundreds of coaches, thousands of student-athletes and countless peers. Corbet is thankful for his time at Boise State and working in his profession, and we — both at Boise State and members of CoSIDA — can’t thank him enough for the time he devoted to each.