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Idaho Leaving Idaho State Behind?
Is FBS Idaho - finally - suprassing Idaho State in facilities?
Idaho State fans long ago accepted Boise State as the flagship athletic program in Idaho.
The Broncos play in front of the state’s largest crowds in the state’s biggest stadiums, their football team won the Fiesta Bowl, their men’s basketball team just went to the NCAA tournament and they even get face time on ESPN every now and then.
The Bengals can’t match that success. Not in any way.
Ever since Boise State bailed on the Big Sky conference 13 years ago to pursue bigger, better and much more profitable things, the Broncos have left Idaho State in its old I-AA dust.
But the thing is, no one seems to mind.
Mostly because everyone knew it was going to happen. Few anticipated the Broncos would make the gap as wide as it is today, what with their football team reaching the unfathomable heights it has, but it was easy to tell Idaho State wouldn’t be able to compete with Boise State anymore.
Besides, most Bengals fans were content with where they were. They didn’t want to be like the University of Idaho and jump up into the land of I-A football just to keep up with the Broncoses.
The Big Sky was where they started, and it was where they would stay. It was the right move and, until just recently, appeared to be working out better for them than it did the Vandals, who struggle to compete and attract fans in every sport it sponsors.
Just last year, their 1-11 football team, their 8-21 men’s basketball team and their 4-25 women’s basketball team were all widely considered to be some of the worst in the entire country.
For reasons like that, you will rarely find an Idaho State fan willing to admit inferiority to the Vandals. Yes, Idaho is in the WAC with Boise State. But to them, the Bengals will always be the second-best team in the state.
They will tell you about how the Idaho State men’s basketball team has beaten Idaho four straight times. They will tell you about how close their football team was to taking out the Vandals on the road two years ago - just three points away - and how they will actually finish the job this season. They will tell you about how Pocatello is better than Moscow.
To the true sports enthusiast in southeast Idaho, there is no end to the dominance.
But some new arguments might soon have to be made if things keep going the way they are. With Rob Spear leading the way in Moscow, it looks like Idaho is about to leave Idaho State in the same kind of daze Boise State did more than a decade ago.
The fourth-year athletic director has already managed to accomplish 90 percent of the goals a collection of Idaho State administrators have been trying to achieve for 15 years.
Idaho’s Kibbie Dome, which is so similar to Idaho State’s Holt Arena that it is used as the Bengals’ home field in video games, will soon undergo major renovations and step into the modern era with enormous translucent glass walls on each end and a video board to go along with the already installed FieldTurf playing surface.
Outside, the Vandals just installed two top-of-the-line 70-yard practice football fields that sit back-to-back on a FieldTurf surface so the team can practice for road games. The entire area is lit.
Back inside, there are three buildings for basketball teams to practice in, the locker rooms have individual pro-style oak lockers, lounges and big-screen TVs.
All this after Spear said Idaho went from 1982-2004 without a single upgrade in athletic facilities. No wonder Idaho State is still arguably the better program.
“The way you look is important,” Spear said. “You need to look like a Division I program. When you look like less than that, you’re not going to get the players or coaches you want to have in your program.
“To go years and years without improvements, you can’t do that. You have to be improving your facilities every single year if you want to compete.”
There are more renovations on the way. I could go on and on with them. The point is, Spear claims these facilities are as good as you’ll find anywhere in the country.
“When you come in as a student-athlete for UI football, where you practice and where you train, those things I would say are as good as anywhere. Where you play and the gameday atmosphere is what we need to improve. But as far as day-to-day atmosphere, what you get would rival any Pac 10 school.”
Idaho State certainly can’t say the same. Pocatello and Chubbuck voters brutally beat down a bond measure to renovate Holt Arena not long ago, coaches of revenue sports have to play guarantee games to help pay expenses and the winningest coach in ISU women’s basketball history just bolted because of inferior facilities.
Where does he coach now? Idaho.
Newlee obviously agrees with Spear’s vision. He took one look at the Vandals’ locker room and was overwhelmed with how nice it was.
“The only time I had been up there was four years ago, and they have made massive improvements in what’s going on,” Newlee said at a press conference Tuesday. “I was blown away by what’s going on up there … Their facilities are in place. Their facilities are unbelievable. Their facilities are so much better.”
He likely was also impressed with his new salary that came with signing a five-year contract. Terms of his deal have not yet been released, but reports have indicated that Idaho’s new men’s basketball coach Don Verlin will make close to $1 million over the next five years.
That’s almost double what Idaho State pays its prominent coaches.
Standing not but a few feet away from Newlee as he deservedly raved about all this was Idaho State acting athletic director Jeff Tingey. When asked how it felt to hear his coach speak so glowingly of a similar in-state program, his answer was simple.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “Really difficult.”
Idaho leaving ISU behind
Kellis Robinett, Idaho State Journal