1958 – End of the Pacific Coast Conference

Oregon vs Idaho program

Oregon vs Idaho program

Representatives from the conference met in August 1958 to determine the future of the conference.  The meeting resulted in a unanimous decision to dissolve.    The move to dissolve was not unexpected by this time.  USC, Cal, and UCLA had already made public their intentions to withdraw from the conference.  The University of Washington, who typically aligned itself with the California schools, followed suit shortly thereafter.  Washington’s announcement came as a shock to Idaho and Washington State.  It almost certainly meant death to the Coast Conference.  The outspoken president of Oregon State said of the four remaining, smaller schools, “we’ve just about had it“.

The larger, southern schools had grown tired of playing the smaller, northwest schools, including Idaho. Sharing gate receipts with schools who could not return the favor was hurting the larger schools bottom lines.  The exception, of course, was the large, Seattle based University of Washington.  Ironically, it was those four larger schools that were the ones penalized by the conference for violations.  The four departures started an unstoppable tide toward dissolution.  Stanford, who had voted for the violations now was left with no choice but to join the southern schools in abandoning the Coast Conference and forming a new league.  This left Idaho, Washington State, Oregon, and Oregon State  without a home for football.

Idaho taking on Wazzu in the battle of the Palouse.  Great close-up shot of Neale Stadium.

Idaho taking on Wazzu in the battle of the Palouse. Great close-up shot of Neale Stadium.

Idaho lost 20-6

Although Idaho had been a full participating member of the basketball side of the conference, it had not participated as a full round-robin member in football for a few seasons.  As a result the conference voted 8-1 to give Idaho less than half of the normal share of the treasury distribution.

Remarkably nobody within the conference seemed to understand what kind of long term ramifications the act of dissolution would have upon the college sports landscape. As reported in the Idaho Statesman below, there was even some humor among the representatives during the meeting to dissolve the conference.

Idaho’s President Theophilus had made it publicly known that Idaho wished to continue playing its traditional northwest rivals Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State.  However, football had become a huge financial undertaking and Idaho simply could not keep up with the larger schools.  The school recognized that in order to make ends meet they Vandals would be playing only two games at home in rural Moscow in the coming seasons.  There was almost no chance that Idaho would be included in a reformed football league.  All signs pointed to football independence for Idaho.

As the PCC crumbed, President Theophilus sought to solidify Idaho’s relationship with the other northwest colleges – apart from Washington whose departure from the conference had driven the final nail in the PCC coffin.  Theophilus had sent letters to both Washington State and Oregon State seeking reassurance that the two schools intended to continue playing Idaho.  Washington State’s response was very diplomatic stating that “frankly, I think all of us need the others.”

The response from Oregon State’s President Strand was much more blunt.  Reading now it seems humorous, although completely wrong with regard to the future.  President Strand said:

I’ll tell you what I think is going to happen. Some of the California institutions, particularly in L.A. will have their fling…Calm your fears, brother; just sit back and watch the show. It’s going to be good.  Self-policing, no rules, super-duper schedules, half-million dollar gates. Red Sanders rides again. Good thing we split the treasury before someone proposed a memorial for him.

On the bright side, Idaho made it three wins in a row against Utah in 1958.  The Vandals traveled to Salt Lake and shutout the Utes for Idaho’s first win of the season.  Over 16,000 fans watched Idaho beat Utah on a perfect autumn night.

Idaho taking on Oregon State

Idaho taking on Oregon State

Idaho taking on Oregon State

Idaho taking on Oregon State

Joe Espinoza launches a pass against Oregon

Joe Espinoza launches a pass against Oregon

Another highlight from the season occurred when the legendary college football broadcaster (and Wazzu alum) Keith Jackson called the 59th annual Battle of the Palouse.  The entire video of the game with audio featuring Keith Jackson is available here.

1958 schedule poster

1958 schedule poster

Idaho taking on future Pac-10 member Arizona

Idaho vs. Washington State, 1958

1958 Battle of the Palouse


About gomightyvandals

A sports fan interested in the history of Vandal Athletics
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