Conference mate and in-state rival Idaho State University took home the inaugural Big Sky Conference 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.
Idaho was not eligible for the Big Sky Conference championship because the Vandals did not play a complete conference schedule during 1963. Idaho was still under contract for several future games that had been scheduled prior to the founding of the Big Sky Conference. A look at the annual report from the Athletic Board of Control provides a glimpse into the thinking of the administration when joining the Big Sky. Many of the same thoughts recorded in this report have been echoed with Idaho’s latest entrance into the Big Sky Conference.
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.
Despite the formation of the new league the press was still interested in finding out what happened with the old league. A reporter from the Eugene Register-Guard contacted the president of Stanford University with a list of questions regarding the Oregon schools, the new league, and the demise of the old league. The reporter asks bluntly whether Idaho was to blame for the demise of the league considering the Vandals could swing any conference vote in favor of the norther schools. Stanford’s president doesn’t answer directly about the Idaho situation but instead cites overzealous recruiting as a main reason for the demise of the PCC.
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.