1911 – Two Presidents Visit the University

The year 1911 was a special one in the history of the University of Idaho. One of the most historic ever in the long and glorious history of the university. In 1911 two U.S. presidents visited the Moscow campus. First president Teddy Roosevelt in April and then, three months later, President Taft. Huge crowds greeted Taft on his tour and Moscow was no exception. Although he pronounced Moscow incorrectly, the people still cheered. There’s a great interview with a local man (and former Vandal football player) named Abe MacGregor about his attendance at the Theodore Roosevelt appearance available from the University of Idaho library.

On the football field, Idaho entered the 1911 season with an all time winning record against Washington State College. The crimson and gray would be victorious in 1911 to tie the series at 6-6-2.  The Spokane papers took a decidedly pro-cougar tone in their game recaps. However, the great rivalry was described in romantic terms and the game was apparently a great one. WSC won by the score of 17-0 but Idaho fought hard, as they always do, against the cougars. The Chronicle mentions that Idaho was the lighter team and was pretty well handled by WSC. The Spokesman featured a tabulation of all previous scores in the series showing just how competitive this rivalry had become. The Spokesman also put the crowd at 4,000 spectators with special trains, packed to the steps, running to Moscow. Idaho’s biggest crowds have historically been against the hated cougars and it is a shame that the game now rarely occurs at all and never occurs in Moscow.

There is an omission in the record books regarding Idaho’s game with Gonzaga the week before the WSC affair. On October 14 Idaho hosted Gonzaga in Moscow. Once again the paper labeled the team from Moscow the “Huskies”. Idaho Huskies doesn’t have the same ring to it as Mighty Vandals. Surprisingly the 22-0 victory was seen as a disappointment with Idaho expected to beat the Gonzagans by 30 to 35 points.

Members of the 1911 Idaho Vandals from the 1913 Gem of the Mountains

Members of the 1911 Idaho Vandals from the 1913 Gem of the Mountains

The record books also omit the location and date of Idaho’s meeting with Lewiston Normal. That game occurred on October 7 and was also played at Moscow. The Mighty Vandals made quick work of the normal school and won by the score of 40-5.

On the 28th of October Idaho met Washington in Spokane. An example of another tradition lost or given up by Idaho is the hosting of events in the region’s largest population center. Spokane, as usual, was excited about hosting such a big event. Washington was favored by 10-20 points and the game played out exactly as expected with Washington enjoying a 17-0 victory. The Spokesman ran a huge comic poking fun at the ease with which Washington defeated Idaho.

Following the Washington game, Idaho returned home to host Whitman. The Vandals got back to their winning ways at home, defeating Whitman 5-0. The only touchdown of the game came in the first quarter. Idaho outplayed Whitman for most of the game with the visitors rarely threatening to score.

Idaho then traveled to Salt Lake City to face another old rival on Thanksgiving day- Utah. Three weeks had elapsed between Idaho football games due to Oregon canceling a scheduled meeting due to the death of one of their players. The snowy field and fast Utah team proved too much for Idaho with the Vandals falling by the score of 19-0. The Spokesman stated that “the Mormons got the advantage of almost every break”.

In Idaho’s last game of the season the Vandals defeated the Boise All-Stars by the score of either 21-0 or 31-0.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Idaho against Washington State College

Idaho against Washington State College

In 1912 Idaho played only four football games. The season opened in Pullman against Washington State.  The game was dominated by Idaho and the Vandals won the game 13-0. Washington State tried multiple field goals but missed two and had one blocked by Idaho. Idaho was the bigger team, the stronger team, and the more prepared team. A huge crowd of fans was present at the game. Two special trains were run from Moscow to Pullman to bring fans in addition to those who drove by car.

A summary of the 1912 season in the Pacific Northwest from Spalding

A summary of the 1912 season in the Pacific Northwest from Spalding

Although the Vandals looked great against Washington State, Idaho was severely outclassed against the mighty huskies. Idaho was overwhelmed in every department as the Washington team crushed Idaho 24-0. Very few of Washington’s first string played the final quarter against Idaho but the Vandals were still unable to score. Legendary Washington coach Gil Dobie remarked that Washington expected Idaho to put up a better fight. The game was 22-0 in favor of Washington at the half and the only scoring in the second half was that of a safety tallied by the Washington squad.

When Idaho hosted Oregon in the third game of the season it was the red against the blue. Those teams would look severely out of place today. The red clad Vandal squad appeared to have won the game but had a touchdown called back on a technicality. Meanwhile the blue-clad Oregon boys won the game on a powerful field goal. The crowd must have been pretty light as the Spokesman made several mentions of the poor attendance and remarked that the game should be played in Spokane the next time Oregon visited Idaho.

Idaho played only one game at home in 1912 - Oregon

Idaho played only one game at home in 1912 – Oregon

In the season finale Idaho traveled to Walla Walla to face Whitman. The smaller Idaho team outcoached and outplayed Whitman winning by the score of 13-6.  Idaho and Whitman had previously played 12 times with each school winning six. The 1912 victory gave Idaho a 7-6 series lead and ended the season on a high note.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment


The 1913 campaign began with a bang. Idaho traveled to Spokane to face regional foe Gonzaga. The Vandals were superior in every facet of the game, winning 50-something to three. Idaho reports the game was 52-3, but the Lewiston Tribune reports 54-3 and six touchdowns scored by Idaho. The game against Gonzaga was the first one in the Bulldogs new stadium. Idaho’s stars from Coeur d’Alene and Boise “swamped” the Gonzaga team.

Idaho vs WSC

The annual showdown with Washington State would follow the Gonzaga game. The all-time series was tied between the two rivals up to this point. The teams were expected to be evenly matched and they did not disappoint. The Vandals would come out on the right end of a 3-0 score, but the game was very closely contested. Idaho scored an early field goal and held the Pullman team from scoring the rest of the way.

1913 Idaho Vandals

1913 Idaho Vandals

Idaho next traveled to Eugene where the Vandals faced off against the Ducks. Idaho reportedly played well, although the score was heavily in favor of Oregon, 27-0.

Idaho would completely overwhelm Whitman next, winning 29-3. The victory would give Idaho the Inland Empire title – whatever that is. But, considering Idaho had beaten Gonzaga, Whitman, and Washington State, I guess the Vandals could be considered the best in the Inland Empire. The Spokesman referred to the Vandals as “husky” in the game recap. Whether this refers to their size or their mascot I’m not quite certain.

MacLean Field

MacLean Field

To wrap up the season Idaho would head to Oregon for its last two games. Little was published about Idaho’s Thanksgiving Day game in Oregon against the Aggies. The game was apparently very close with Idaho losing by the score of 3-0. If it hadn’t been for poor field conditions, Idaho feels this result could have been reversed. For some strange reason Idaho returned to Oregon more than a month after its game against Oregon State to play a game, on new years day. The game was against the Multnomah Athletic Club. The Vandals played a competitive game against the team that had recently thrashed Oregon, but ultimately came up short 20-9. The game was scoreless until the final quarter when Multnomah AC pulled away. Multnomah had not been defeated since 1911 and the Gem of the Mountains indicated that the Vandals should be proud of the effort. A good history of the Multnomah Athletic Club football team can be found here.

MacLean Field

Idaho would play a total of 3 games in Oregon in the 1913-14 season and only 2 games in Idaho. Tight geographic conferences sometimes have strange schedule quirks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment


The 1914 Vandals opened the season on a high note defeating Gonzaga. By all accounts, Idaho was the vastly superior team, though only able to beat the visitors by 2 points and a score of 5-3.

Idaho continued to be unbeaten after the second week’s game against Montana.  However, Idaho and Montana combined for a total of 0 points, ending the game in a tie.  The game was played in a rainstorm on a field so muddy that the game was stopped several times to clear mud from the players eyes. Idaho was again clearly the better team, but the weather neutralized Idaho’s speed and gave the bigger Montana squad an advantage.

As always, the university struggled for funding in 1914.  The Spokesman ran a rather informative article explaining Idaho’s land grand and the funds derived therefrom. In total, the university was endowed by the federal government with nearly 300,000 acres of land.

Back on the football field Idaho hosted its final home game of the season. The game was against the ducks of Oregon. It was at the hands of Oregon that Idaho suffered its first defeat of the season. The Vandals offensive woes finally caught up to them and Oregon defeated Idaho 13-0. Two missed field goals and a pick-six did Idaho in. Oregon put the nail in the coffin with a forward pass for touchdown of their own. We are reminded of the difference in eras when Oregon’s coach slapped a Moscow fan and nearly started a brawl between the players and fans. Luckily the excitement was short lived and nobody was seriously injured.

The 1914 Idaho Vandals

The 1914 Idaho Vandals

Over a century ago the Battle of the Palouse was still big news in the region. A big crowd of 4,000 packed into WSC’s new Rogers Field to witness the game.  A field goal by WSC amounted to the only scoring on the day and the Cougars came away with a narrow 3-0 victory. After its final game on the Palouse Idaho would head to Portland to face Oregon State, or at that time, Oregon Agricultural College.  The Aggies would beat Idaho 26-0 as Idaho’s offense continued to struggle.

The Vandals would end the season at Walla Walla against Whitman. The Vandals would leave victorious by the score of 7-0. The only touchdown of the game was scored on a forward pass.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


The Vandals began the season on our a sour note – travelling to Missoula.  Not only that, but Idaho lost the game to the local team by a score of 15-3.  Montana tallied their 15 points via a touchdown, safety, and a game ending pick-six.

Image of the 1915 team from the 1917 Gem of the Mountains

Image of the 1915 team from the 1917 Gem of the Mountains

Idaho took high hopes into the second game of the season at Oregon.  In fact, the Spokesman predicted an Idaho victory.  Unfortunately the Vandals would fall to the ducks in Eugene by the score of 19-7. Idaho fell behind by 19 points before the Vandals could muster any scoring. Once again big plays and poor pass defense doomed Idaho to the unexpected loss.

Idaho’s woes would continue in grand fashion the next week against Wazzu. Cougs would score their biggest victory to date over Idaho 41-0. It was also the largest score WSC had ever scored against a Northwest Conference opponent.  The largest ever crowd to gather at Maclean Field – in excess of 5,000 spectators, witnessed WSC’s victory. The “Idaho Fights” yell – another sadly lost tradition – was heard even as Idaho was soundly defeated. The paper reported that the fans kept up their end of the rivalry with a fracas on the field which was barely cleared by the Moscow police in time for the second half to begin.

Luck didn’t change for Idaho the following week, either.  Idaho traveled to Corvallis where the Aggies of OAC  thoroughly outplayed the Vandals. OAC tallied 40 points to Idaho’s 0 and played most of the game in Vandal territory.  Costly fumbles and penalties didn’t help Idaho’s cause. The Spokesman said Idaho was “utterly crushed“.

Idaho finally got in the win column against Idaho’s rival from Spokane, the team from Gonzaga. “One of the cheapest victories Idaho has ever won, and without a shred of glory attached” is how the game was described by the Spokesman. Idaho was outplayed by Gonzaga but returned an interception for the only touchdown of the game and won by the score of 6-3.

The pillow fight of the year in the Northwest Conference concluded Idaho’s season. The Vandals hosted the Missionaries from Whitman and held mighty Whitman to no score. Unfortunately for Idaho, the Vandals were also unable to score. The weakest Idaho team in years ended the season with a record of 1-4-1.

The big news of the season was the resignation of legendary coach Gil Dobie from UW. The conference schools had grown tired of Dobie’s antics and refused to schedule the school. The Chronicle ran an interesting cartoon showing Idaho as a cowboy with WSC as an Indian wishing Gil a sarcastic “good luck”. Dobie would be convinced to stay at Washington for one more year before being “through with Washington for all time“.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Various sports scenes from the 1916 Gem of the Mountains

Various sports scenes from the 1918 Gem of the Mountains

The silver and gold (or rather red and white, in 1916) started the season off slowly.  The Vandals hosted OAC in the first game of the season and the future Beavers (then Aggies) trounced Idaho 26-0.  The Aggies outplayed Idaho in every facet of the game.  They ran on Idaho at will, blocked Idaho kicks and even completed several forward passes.

It was more of the same in the second game.  This time, however, the Vandals went down to defeat against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  Idaho was again outplayed in every aspect of the game.  Surprising many, the Zags, defeated Idaho 21-6.  The Tribune reported that Idaho was learning a new formation and fumbled and fluked its way to the sound defeat.

After another loss at Walla Walla to Whitman College, the Vandals returned to the Palouse only to be trounced by the hated WSC Cougars.  On a slippery Pullman field, the cougs scored in every quarter, defeating Idaho 31-0.

The final conference game of the season would be in Moscow against Montana.  Because Idaho had not yet won a game, the Vandals would be guaranteed a last place finish regardless of the outcome. As can be expected when the Vandals and Griz meet, the game was hotly contested.  Montana came away victorious, though, after a costly interception thrown by Idaho and running it back for a touchdown.  The final score was Montana 20, Idaho 13.

After a brutal and disappointing conference schedule, Idaho rattled off a series of victories beginning with a 39-0 victory over the College of Southern Idaho (then Albion Normal School) and a 32-0 victory over Idaho State (then Pocatello Tech).

The season concluded with Idaho travelling to Logan, Utah to face the Aggies.  The game was played on a snowy, wet, field.  The Aggies kept it close in the first half, but the conditions favored the heavier Idaho team and they pulled away in the second half, winning by the score of 27-15.

It was surely a different sports landscape in the early part of the 20th century.  As the Pacific Coast and Northwest conferences held their annual meetings jointly in Seattle, Stanford was invited to join the PCC.  Further, California was expected to lobby for admittance of USC, Occidental, and Whittier into the league. Unrelated to sports, the Tribune covered the University of Idaho’s growth in a special column.  The author noted the various states, counties, and high schools from which students came to Idaho.  Especially impressive was the increasing number of women registering for classes at Moscow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


In 1917 most of the news was rightfully dedicated to covering the war in Europe.  However, on campus the Mighty Vandals would play football for one more season before taking a short hiatus in 1918.

The season began with a loss to Oregon State, which at that time, was Oregon Agricultural College.  The final score was 26-6.  The most interesting thing about the game was that it was played in Pendleton, Oregon.  I’ve yet to uncover the reason for the location, but hopefully will find that out at some point.  It appears that Idaho employed a creative offense, but was outweighed by the bigger OAC team.

The creative Vandal offense was on display again the following week against Oregon.  In Eugene, Idaho outgained Oregon but couldn’t punch the ball across the goal line, falling 14-0.

The Idaho offense, although gaining many yards on the season, couldn’t muster a single point against Washington State in the annual Battle of the Palouse.  The Vandals fell to WSC for the fourth consecutive year by the score of 19-0.  Again, Idaho’s lighter squad played valiantly but was worn down by the larger opposition.

In something you would be unlikely to see in this day and age, Whitman was favored over Idaho.  However, Idaho upset all the predictions and shut Whitman out, finally breaking out of its scoring slump and winning by the score of 16-0. The Chronicle ran a large photo of Idaho’s breakout star fullback Roy Thompson.

The final game of the season was a Thanksgiving Day affair against Montana.  The Vandals traveled to Missoula and thumped the lowly Griz 14-3.  Thompson was again the star for Idaho, which employed an aerial attack, throwing a surprising 21 forward passes.

1917 Idaho Vandals

1917 Idaho Vandals

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment