It’s not often that a 5-5 record will garner you a championship. But, that’s how it went for the Vandals in 1968. The mighty Vandals rolled through the Big Sky conference finishing with a 3-1 record while losing only to Montana State. As usual, Idaho’s record against University level opponents blemished their otherwise excellent record. Competing with far fewer scholarships than their University level competition, Idaho managed a modest 2-4 record against University level schools. The two wins came at the expense of the Pacific Tigers and future WAC mate San Jose State.
Idaho fell to Palouse rival WSU in a 14-7 loss. The game was played in Spokane at Albi Stadium in front of more than 20,000 fans. No games played by the Cougars (against teams not named Huskies) at Albi Stadium had drawn over 20,000. Such a big crowd made the game a no-brainer for the schools as both institutions would benefit financially. The light-hearted Vandal-Cougar rivalry was epitomized by the black hearse, which contained a stuffed cougar “corpse” leading the 50-car Vandal caravan to Albi Stadium. Even the Idaho State Police got in on the fun giving the caravan a police escort.
In a second game away from home the Vandals beat the Pacific Tigers in the Vandals annual visit to the Idaho capital.
1968 was also the first year for new head coach YC McNease. Although he only lasted two years in Moscow, he did bring the Vandals a Big Sky championship.
Even in 1968 Idaho was looking for roomier accommodations for the football squad. A domed stadium was proposed and was intended to seat more than 25,000. Neale Stadium was 35 years old, wooden construction, and seated only 17,500. Even 25,000 was modest by some standards. Remodeling Neale Stadium was an option as well. The end goal being to raise capacity to 30,000 minimum. Anything less was considered by the Athletic Director to be a waste of time. He went on to say that football should be played outdoors. Even President Hartung explained the importance of athletics to the university by saying “when you build up an athletic program you are upgrading the image of the university.”
Here’s some video of Idaho’s 23-8 loss at Oregon.
and the Battle of the Palouse
and the loss against Washington