1924 – Goodbye to the Northwest Conference

1924 marked the end of Idaho’s somewhat unknown history in the Northwest Conference.  The Vandals went out in style, though, winning the conference in their final season.  By 1924 Idaho was the only major state school left in the league.  The remaining members were mostly small private institutions including Gonzaga and Whitman.  Strangely, Idaho competed in both the Pacific Coast Conference and Northwest Conference during the 1922, 23, and 24 seasons.

The first game of Idaho’s 1924 season was against the Bulldogs of Gonzaga.  In what had become an annual meeting, Idaho traveled to Spokane to face Gonzaga.  The entire region was excited because both squads were expected to compete for the Northwest Conference title and the winner of this game would have a leg up in league play.  A capacity crowd of 6000 was expected to fill Gonzaga Stadium with fans coming from all over the Inland Empire.  200 students from Moscow made the trip – an impressive showing.  Idaho outgained Gonzaga and even had the ball within inches of the Bulldog goal line, but the game ended in a scoreless tie.

1924 really was an impressive year for Vandal football.  After the nailbiter against Gonzaga Idaho traveled to Missoula and put a beating on the Griz.  Idaho scored six touchdowns in a 41-13 victory.

Idaho: 19, WSC: 3

The Mighty Vandals would return home the following week to take on the hated Cougars from Washington State.  In what would become a habit, a huge crowd was expected for the rivalry game.  Idaho was looking to make it two wins in a row against the cougs and WSCwas trying to avenge last year’s loss.  The biggest crowd in the history of Moscow was bolstered by the 1500 student strong pep rally that took place in the Administration Auditorium.  For two days Idaho’s football team stayed at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house so the coach could keep an eye on them.  Whatever his motives, it worked.  Idaho held the cougs to three points while scoring 19 of their own.    It was a great game and great atmosphere, the biggest crowd in history – including 1500 fans from Pullman. It was reported that the crowd eclipsed 10,000 spectators.

Following the great victory over Washington State, Idaho would strangely travel to Portland to take on Stanford.  The Vandals would meet their first defeat of the season at the hands of Stanford, but the 3-0 score would prove that Idaho had one of its strongest teams in a long time. The loss cost Idaho an appearance in the Rose Bowl as Stanford was invited to represent the Pacific Coast Conference. The game was played in Portland as part of a negotiation with Stanford. The Argonaut reports that Stanford, frankly, didn’t want to come to Moscow.The Spokane Chamber of Commerce even offered to match the game guarantee offered by Portland, but the travel was still too much for Stanford. Even in the early 20’s the tension between the larger California schools and the smaller northwest schools was evident. Once Stanford realized Idaho couldn’t match the gate receipts that were split as part of the home-and-home arrangement Stanford quickly had the conference change the site of the game.

As a result of that weird schedule quirk, Idaho played more games in Oregon than they did in Idaho in 1924.  The Stanford game marked the beginning of a three week stretch of games for Idaho in Oregon.  After Stanford in Portland, Idaho took on Oregon State in Corvallis.  At Bell Field, Idaho spoiled OAC’s stadium dedication, holding the Beavers scoreless in a 22-0 Vandal victory.  Quarterback Skippy Stivers was Idaho’s superstar this season and was critical in nearly every Idaho game.

The Vandals concluded their Oregon trip with a game against the Ducks.  Idaho again showed its strength with a 13-0 victory over Oregon.  The stingy Vandal defense gave up only 3 points in their three game Oregon stay and didn’t give up more than 13 in a single game all season long.  On a snowy field, Idaho broke its 23 year jinx at the hands of the Ducks. The game would mark Idaho’s final conference game as a member of the Northwest Conference.

The newspapers reported that the “big five” members of the Northwest Conference – including Idaho – had decided to remain as members of both conference. But, 1924 would prove to be the final years any of them participated in the conference.

Idaho’s toughest game of the season would come against the mighty Trojans of Southern California.  Idaho played a tough game, failing to capitalize on several opportunities and falling to the Trojans 13-0.

In the final game of the season, Idaho hosted Nevada at Boise.  The last 4 years Boise had been a bit of a good luck charm for the Vandals.  Idaho had allowed only 3 points combined over that time.  This year would be no different as Idaho handled Nevada easily and came away with a 23-0 victory.

If you’ve been keeping track you will notice that only 1 game was played in Moscow and that Idaho had only 3 home games on the season – 1 in Portland, 1 in Boise, and 1 in Moscow.  Still, the Vandals produced a 5-2-1 record on the backs on one of the strongest Vandal squads ever.  1924 was a great year to be a Vandal.


About gomightyvandals

A sports fan interested in the history of Vandal Athletics
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