Allen, c. 1990
January 23, 1943|
|Died||December 30, 1996
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Simon Fraser (assistant)
Simon Fraser (co-coach)
Eastern Washington (DC)
Los Angeles Express (assistant)
Portland Breakers (DC)
|Head coaching record|
|Tournaments||10–5 (NCAA D-II playoffs)
3–1 (NCAA D-I-AA playoffs)
|Accomplishments and honors|
|5 Western Football (1987–1989, 1991–1992)
1 Big Sky (1994)
Ernest Duncan "Pokey" Allen, Jr. (January 23, 1943 – December 30, 1996) was a football player and coach in the United States and Canada. He was the head coach at Portland State University from 1986 to 1992 and at Boise State University from 1993 to 1996, compiling a career college football record of 87–41–2 (.677). Allen led Portland State to consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II National Football Championship in 1987 and 1988 and guided the 1994 Boise State Broncos to the Division I-AA title game.
Allen attended Missoula County High School in Missoula and was a standout high school athlete in football, basketball, and track. He accepted a scholarship to play college football at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City under head coach Ray Nagel. Utah was a member of the Skyline Conference, and soon to be a charter member of the WAC in 1962.
As a quarterback and cornerback in his senior season in 1964, Allen and end/placekicker Roy Jefferson led the Utes to an 9–2 record, including a 32–6 victory over favored West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, played indoors in Atlantic City; Allen was named the game's most valuable player. He played three seasons of professional football in the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions and Edmonton Eskimos.
Early coaching career
Following his CFL playing career, Pokey Allen became an assistant coach in 1968 at Simon Fraser in Burnaby, B.C., Canada. Five years later, he was named co-coach of the team. After nine years at Simon Fraser, Allen returned to the U.S. and became an assistant coach at Montana in 1977, followed by other assistant coaching positions with Eastern Washington and California.
In 1983, Allen signed on as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Express of the USFL, the new professional league which played its games in the spring. Two years later, he moved to Portland, Oregon, as defensive coordinator for the Portland Breakers.
Following the folding of the USFL, Allen became the head coach at Portland State University in 1986. Allen coached the Vikings to their first playoff appearances, including back-to-back trips to the Division II finals in 1987 and 1988, though the team lost both games. He was named coach of the year in the Western Football Conference five times.
Allen was as much noted for his personality as his coaching. He took part in a humorous series of television commercials to sell tickets for Portland State games, with stunts such as dancing the Hokey Pokey, betting a month's salary on attendance at the game, allowing fans to vote on whether to pick heads or tails at the coin toss, and most famously, a series of commercials in which Allen promised to have a meteor, an elephant, or himself (shot out of a cannon) land in the backyard of anyone not buying Portland State season tickets.
In 1992, Allen's Division II Vikings visited Bronco Stadium in Boise in late October and soundly defeated the I-AA Boise State Broncos 52–26. After Boise State lost their next three games to close out the season, head coach Skip Hall promptly resigned and Allen and his entire coaching staff were hired away from Portland State.
In his second year at Boise State in 1994, he led the Broncos to a 10–1 regular season and a Big Sky championship, the first since 1980. As conference champions, the Broncos were included in the 16-team Division I-AA playoffs and advanced to the national finals. BSU lost 24–14 to Jim Tressel's Youngstown State Penguins at Huntington, West Virginia, and finished the season at 13–2.
Allen had a reputation for publicity stunts: during the run to the 1994 national championship game, he challenged local supporters and promised to ride a horse in downtown Boise if Bronco Stadium was sold out for their annual rivalry game versus Idaho, who had won 12 straight games over the Broncos. The stadium was sold out, BSU won 27–24, and Allen kept his promise.
Cancer and legacy
Days after the 1994 championship game, Allen was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of muscle cancer. The tumor in his upper right arm was removed in March and he underwent extensive chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant in July at the Fred Hutchinson Center in Seattle. He returned to coach the Broncos in 1995 while going through treatment, and the cancer was declared in remission in December 1995, but the doctors warned of likely recurrence. After finding a lump on his chest the following summer, cancer was found in both lungs and Allen took a medical leave of absence on August 6; several days later he underwent extensive surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
Tom Mason filled in as interim head coach in 1996 and the Broncos stumbled to just one win in their first ten games. Allen returned for the final two games of the 1996 season, against New Mexico State and Idaho. His win against NMSU was his first and only Division I-A win. He resigned in early December, following a 64–19 loss to Idaho in November. While visiting family in Montana over the holidays, he fell and his condition worsened; he died at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula at the age of 53. His memorial service was on New Year's Day at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Missoula.
Head coaching record
|Portland State Vikings (Western Football Conference) (1986–1992)|
|1987||Portland State||11–2–1||4–1–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Championship|
|1988||Portland State||11–3–1||6–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Championship|
|1989||Portland State||9–4||4–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Quarterfinal|
|1991||Portland State||11–3||5–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Semifinal|
|1992||Portland State||9–4||4–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Semifinal|
|Boise State Broncos (Big Sky Conference) (1992–1995)|
|1994||Boise State||13–2||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division I-AA Championship|
|Boise State Broncos (Big West Conference) (1996)|
|1996||Boise State||1–1[n 1]||1–1[n 1]||5th[n 1]|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
- Tom Mason served as interim head coach for the first ten games of the season while Allen was on a leave of absence. Allen returned for the final two games.
- "Allen's health deteriorating". Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho). Associated Press. December 30, 1996. p. 3B.
- "Where are they now?: Former Ute Pokey Allen". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). October 15, 1981. p. 2D.
- Miller, Hack (December 18, 1964). "Only Ute fear - passer". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). p. 12B.
- Miller, Hack (December 19, 1964). "Indoor bowl game: novel". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). p. A5.
- Nissenson, Herschel (December 20, 1964). "Utah rolls, 32-6". Ocala Star-Banner (Florida). Associated Press. p. 26.
- Green, Russ (December 20, 1964). "Utah bombs West Virginia in Liberty Bowl". Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania). UPI. p. 61.
- "Pokey Allen, 53, Football Coach". New York Times. December 31, 1996. Retrieved 2008-04-10. (subscription required (. ))
- Sorenson, Mike (December 20, 2006). "Atlantic City contest quietly became historically significant". Deseret Morning News. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- "BC Lions All-Time Roster". BC Lions. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- Wheeler, Ken (December 30, 1996). "Pokey Allen 1943-1996: A short life lived to its fullest". The Oregonian.
- "Pokey Allen: Coaching". Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. 1998. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
- Goe, Ken (December 6, 1991). "The same old Pokey". The Oregonian.
- Frei, Terry (August 25, 1990). "It's just about kickoff time for PSU stunts". The Oregonian.
- "Hall quits as Boise State coach". Seattle Times. Associated Press. November 22, 1992.
- "A Brief Look: Portland State Rivalry". Scout.com. October 3, 2005. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- Anderson, John Gottberg (May 6, 2007). "Oh Boise!". The Bend Bulletin. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- "Allen has tumor". Youngstown Vindicator (Ohio). December 21, 1994. p. C1.
- "Allen in serious condition". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). July 5, 1995. p. D5.
- "BSU coach undergoes lengthy cancer surgery". Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho). Associated Press. August 16, 1996. p. 4B.
- "'Coach Allen touched a lot of guys...'". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Associated Press. December 31, 1996. p. 1B.
- Boling, Dave (January 5, 1997). "Allen's cancer fight taught each of us a lesson in courage". Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington). (Tacoma News Tribune). p. C10.
- "Friends gather to remember Allen". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Associated Press. January 2, 1997. p. 3C.
- Pokey Allen at the College Football Data Warehouse
- Photos of Pokey Allen from Boise State Library
- Pokey Allen at Find a Grave