Former Utah State football coach Tony Knap recently died at age 96. Knap is one of the winningest coaches in Aggie football history.
Knap, a native of Milwaukee, graduated from the University of Idaho in 1940. While head coach at Utah State (1963-66), Knap compiled a 25-14-1 record. His .638 winning percentage is third-highest in school history while his 24 wins is sixth among USU coaches. Knap posted an 8-2 record in his first season in 1963, including a seven-game win streak that included a win at BYU.
In 1964, Knap’s Aggies posted a 5-4-1 mark, winning five games in a row before finishing the season with three losses and a tie. The 1965 Knap-led Aggies won their first seven games, including a win at Arizona State, before losing two and then finishing with a win at Utah for an 8-2 final record.
In Knap’s final season at the helm of the Aggies in 1966, USU lost its first six games before ending with four-straight wins, including victories at Utah and Hawaii in the season finale to finish with a 4-6 mark, Knap’s only season below .500.
While the Aggies were independent during Knap’s tenure, he did coach running back great Roy Shivers, who earned honorable mention All-America accolades in 1965 as well as defensive back great Henry King, who earned first-team Sporting News All-America honors in 1966 as well as second-team All-American honors from the Newspaper Enterprise of America, in addition to honorable mention All-America recognition by Central Press.
King is one of eight USU first-team All-Americans in school history and was inducted into the USU Athletics Hall of Fame this fall.
Also in 1966, defensive lineman Spain Musgrove earned honorable mention All-America honors from Sporting News. Shivers and King played in the All-Star Professional Game, while several other Knap-coached players were selected for the East-West Shrine Game, including Lionel Aldridge (1963), James McNaughton (1964), Bill Munson (1964), Rich Zecher (1965), Reed Henderson (1966) and Ron Sbranti (1966).
Knap also mentored three players who were selected to play in the Hula Bowl, including Alridge in 1963, McNaughton in 1964 and Sbranti in 1966. In 1964, Munson was also chosen to play in the Senior Bowl.
Knap began his coaching career as an assistant at Utah State in 1959 under John Ralston and was an assistant for three seasons before being promoted to head coach after the 1962 season when Ralston left for Stanford. Knap left USU after the 1966 season to be an assistant with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League, before taking over as head coach at Boise State in 1968, then known as Boise College. It was Boise’s first year in Division II (then the “college division”); it had previously competed in the junior college ranks. Knap led the Broncos to a 71-19-1 (.788) record in eight years, including three 10-win seasons and three consecutive Big Sky titles (1973–75)
In 1976, Knap became head coach at UNLV, where he coached for six seasons and amassed a 47-20-2 (.695) record before stepping down after the 1981 season at the age of 67. UNLV made the Division II playoffs in his first season and moved up to Division I-A in 1978, his third season at the school. While Knap was head coach, the Rebels also played as an independent as UNLV joined the PCAA the following season in 1982.
After graduating from college, Knap became a high school teacher and coach in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and then spent a year at Lewiston High School. During World War II, Knap served in the Navy, and returned to coaching after the war at Potlatch, Idaho, where he stayed until 1949. He then moved to Pittsburg, Calif., before starting his coaching career at USU in 1959.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.