The disallowing of Idaho to play a round robin schedule had complicated things for thePCC. Apparently, nobody expected the Vandals to be competitive in the league. In 1938, the Vandals proved that they could, occasionally, hang with football powers of the conference.
Idaho finished the season with a conference record of 2-3-1. Wildly successful by Idaho Standards. The victories came against Oregon St and Montana, with losses against Oregon, UCLA, and Wazzu. The Mighty Vandals even tied northwest power Washington 12-12 in Seattle.
The Vandals performance on the field left the conference office answering a lot of questions. In mid October the Vandals stood undefeated in conference play with a 2-0-1 record. The conference President worked diligently to tell reporters that Idaho was, indeed, eligible for Rose Bowl consideration. Although Idaho did not play a round-robin schedule like the other members of the league, it was still eligible to receive conference votes for the Rose Bowl. In the early years the Rose Bowl representative was determined by a conference vote and not by conference standings. Unfortunately for Idaho, the three conference losses would remove them from Rose Bowl contention and USC would represent the PCC in the game. USC had a conference record of 6-1 with its only loss, ironically for Idaho, to Washington.
A particularly bright spot for the Vandals in 1938 was the defeat of the University of Utahin Salt Lake City. Utah came into the game undefeated and conference champions. Idaho held them scoreless to bring a 16-0 victory back to Moscow.
Another bright spot was the Vandals 19-6 victory over arch-rival Montana. The Vandals went to Missoula and defeated the Grizzlies in front of a record crowd of 8000. A revitalized and victorious Idaho team drew a big crowd of over 7000 to Moscow to see the undefeated Vandals vanquish the NDSU Bison early in the season. Keep in mind this was a time when fewer than 6000 people lived in Moscow.
The year 1938 also marked the beginning of a long Vandal tradition. The Montana student body presented the “little brown stein” as a trophy for the winner of the annual Idaho-Montana rivalry game. Here’s a photo from the Argonaut of the first ever awarding of the trophy.