Conference mate and in-state rival Idaho State took home the inaugural Big Sky football championship in 1963. However, the championship was somewhat illegitimate considering the Bengals lost to the University of Idaho in front of a sellout crowd at the Spud Bowl in Pocatello.
The Vandals continued to play football as an independent in 1963. In fact Idaho State was the only Big Sky team to face the Vandals. Vandal football completed their most successful campaign in more than two decades by finishing with an overall winning record including a win over the Utah Utes in front of a sellout crowd in Boise and a nearly 60 point victory over the Pacific Tigers in Moscow. The squad’s final record was 5-4. The reason for the nine games was the postponement of the scheduled contest with Arizona State due to the assassination of president John F. Kennedy.
The university lost a former leader as well. Dr. Mervin Neale, whom the stadium was named for, died in 1963.
In an environment that could be taken straight out of today’s headlines the Big Six was looking to expand. After the collapse of the Pacific Coast Conference the California and Washington schools banded together to form the AAWU. Idaho, who was a member of the PCC, was not invited to join the AAWU. In fact, the Vandals membership in the PCC was resented by certain institutions because although the Vandals had full voting rights, they did not play a full football schedule. In the end, the rumors were confirmed and the two Oregon schools were added to the league.
Idaho’s annual game in Boise was against the Utah Utes. Idaho would win the game, avenging the loss in 1962. According to Utah the rivalry was viewed as “traditionally significant“. Unfortunately the rivalry would only last one more season.
Here’s a video of Idaho taking on WSU in 1963.