THIS DAY IN SPORTS: The end of Phase I of Broncos-Vandals


This Day In Sports…May 18, 1996:

The University of Idaho wins the Big Sky Men’s Track and Field championship over Boise State, nosing out the Broncos in the final event—the 4×400 meter relay. Each team was led by a legend. The Vandals were guided by Mike Keller, who led the program from 1973-99 and won five Big Sky Coach of the Year honors (plus one in the Big West). Keller was also Olympic decathlon gold medalist Dan O’Brien’s coach. The Broncos had Ed Jacoby, who also began his Boise State head coaching career in 1973. The 1996 Big Sky outdoor meet was the last for Jacoby in a career that included 10 Big Sky Coach of the Year awards.

But the big picture was: it would be the final competition between the two schools as Big Sky members (the Vandals had been in the conference for 33 years, the Broncos for 26). Both would begin Big West competition later that year as they moved to Division I-A in football. Boise State and Idaho would continue to be conference mates through 2000-01. When the Big West dropped football, the programs went their separate ways—the Broncos to the WAC and the Vandals to the Sun Belt in football (while remaining in the Big West in other sports).

The rivals would be reunited when Idaho was admitted to the WAC in 2005, but by that time the programs were on different trajectories. Boise State had become a regular in the top 25 in football and was already halfway through a 12-game winning streak over the Vandals. When the Broncos moved to the Mountain West in 2011, Idaho stayed in the WAC. But the conference was crumbling. The Vandals went independent in football in 2013. Then in 2014, they returned to the Sun Belt in football and moved their other sports to the Big Sky. Football joined the others in the Big Sky in 2018.

Today, Boise State and Idaho rarely face off in any sport. The one-time bitter rivals haven’t played in football since 2010, nor in men’s basketball since 2014. The only sport the schools competed in this athletic year was men’s tennis, a 6-1 Broncos win in February. There may be a one-off in football down the line on the blue turf, but the best opportunity in my mind remains in men’s basketball. The neutral site games in what is now Idaho Central Arena were outstanding. And it was neutral—half silver and gold and half blue and orange. Great atmosphere.  

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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