The story of the Vandals has been one of bad luck, bad timing, and bad decisions. There have been a few success stories sprinkled throughout – “the streak” against rival Boise State, an undefeated PCC season, and two bowl wins, among others.
The indisputable bad decisions can generally be condensed down to two: the decision to dome the stadium, and the de-emphasis of football in the 1950’s. I would add another arguably bad decision was the abandoning of the Boise and Spokane markets around the time Boise State University became a four-year college. Abandoning these old traditions forfeited the statewide and region-wide support the Vandals had worked for decades to generate. A bad decision on top of a bad decision was the canceling of the arena project in conjunction with the doming of the stadium. On top of that bad decision was the decision to build the east end addition to the Kibbie Dome thus eliminating any possibility of an eastern horseshoe. All of the ancillary functions that were to be included in the arena (offices for all sports coaches, weight rooms, team rooms) were eventually built on the east end of the dome at a much higher cost than the original arena project.
Finally, the bad luck can be boiled down to this: the State Board of Education refused to let Idaho stay at Division I football in the 1970’s and Idaho stopped playing California schools in order to play more local schools, primarily Utah, would would eventually join the Pac-12, of which Idaho was no longer a member.
Idaho belongs with its former Northwest rivals. The revival of the northern division of the Pac-12 conference just came 50 years too late for Idaho. If the program could just have been competitive for a few more years in the 1950’s who knows where the school would be today. Chalk it up to just another in a long string of unfortunate circumstances for the Vandals. The PCC was ahead of its time with its divisional format. Today, Idaho would kill for the opportunity to once again be a member of the northern division consisting of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, and Utah.
This blog attempts to cover some of these happenings throughout the history of Vandal football.