By Chris Hammond, Guest Writer
The Rivalry that doesn't exist.
Those who may look at the schedule this week will see Idaho vs Idaho State. This sounds like a classic old state bragging rights game. Where the whole state shuts down. You don't dare wear the wrong colors in the wrong part of the state. The sad news is, it just isn't. Even though they are the oldest two universities in the state of Idaho. Idaho state was founded as the University of Idaho- Southern Branch. It literally was the UI before a split later. The recipe seems to be there…. But we are just missing some ingredients.
Idaho owns this “Rivalry” now being pushed on us as the Battle of the Domes. Idaho is 28-11 all time. Owns the largest win streak at 8 and currently has a 4 game streak. They have only played twice since the turn of the millennium. There used to be a trophy called the king spud for the basketball game. But as the Idaho State coach said. “ It is the ugliest thing ever, it should go to the loser” Since Idaho rejoined the Big Sky both schools athletic departments have been pushing marketing for this battle of the domes. But no one is listening or cares.
People may be surprised to know that the Big Sky gives every team two protected rivalries. Due to the unbalanced schedule, these games allow you to play your rival every year. Idaho States protected rivals are Weber State & Portland State. Idaho's protected rivals are Montana & Eastern Washington. Heck, even Idaho's protected rivals aren't necessarily their biggest. A quick glance at the Big Sky Wikipedia page. You will notice there are two non-conference rivalries listed. Idaho's biggest rivalries are the Governors Cup against Boise State and the Battle of the Palouse against Washington State.
But here we are back in the Big Sky and have multiple teams licking their chops to knock us down with the reminder that we should have never left the FCS. One of those teams that may want it most is indeed Idaho State.
You see Idaho State has played second fiddle to Idaho & Boise state for over 30 years. With them in FCS and Idaho and Boise State in the FBS, paired with the lack of sustained success, they were kinda just there. A quick box score glimpse or 200-word column in the paper was all anyone knew about Idaho State. No one hated them, most people pitied them. They had been stomped more often than not by the two other state schools since the 70’s. Yes, they won a National Title in 1981, but most of you were probably unaware until I just mentioned it. You could poll 1000 people in Idaho and you may not find 1 that knows they won that. Meanwhile, the same 1000 people would know Idaho and Boise State's bowl records.
Now they have an opportunity to take back some of the spotlight. This year's team looks to have a real shot at taking down the Vandals. I won't be surprised if they are favored by a touchdown or more. Idaho will be planning on invading the Minidome, and truly making it a mini Kibbie Dome. A Home win with a bunch of hostile fans in your house would be a real game-changer for the rivalry. Most Vandals are expecting an easy win, they may leave disappointed.
The State of Idaho has been missing a major rivalry ever since Boise State President Bob Kustra said those fateful words ‘Nasty and Inebriated”, effectively killing the states big game. Once Boise State left the WAC for the MWC in 2011 the game ceased. The States biggest & best rivalry has not been played since 2010. Yet here we are. With a chance to take the state. Boise State now has no major rivals. No big game to get up for every year. Idaho has added traditional rival Montana back to the schedule. But Idaho State may be the prettiest girl at the ball. This game could go along way in sparking some enthusiasm statewide about a football game again. It may never match the History of the Apple Cup, The hatred of the Civil War, The importance of Brawl of the Wild, hell it may never even top BSU-Idaho. But like I stated at the beginning, this game just looks like a major rivalry on paper. Maybe, just maybe, it can become one.