As I read the excellent "Get In The Game" series on this website, many questions were answered but others were raised. While
there was a lot of good information provided about where Idaho is currently at and the goals that need to be reached in the near
future, there wasn't a whole lot about why Idaho is doing what they are doing. Or, why so many apparently choose to remain on the
sidelines when there is such important work to be done. More specifically, I don't believe that many of the Idaho supporters who
remain on the sidelines understand why they should dig deeper into their own pockets for the privilege of watching the Vandals play
Louisiana Monroe in Pullman. If we want the time and money of these individuals, we also need to provide them with the answers to
some of these questions and show them a vision of Vandal athletics that they can be excited about supporting.
To be sure, there are reasons to for people to gripe about the Vandals current situation if they want to find a reason to do so. The
Sun Belt is not a good place for the Vandals to hang their helmets in the long run. I don't believe that any true Vandal fan really
enjoys looking at Cougar logos while attending an Idaho "home" game. Others scratch their heads when they see the Vandals on
the field in other PAC-10 stadiums, wondering why Idaho is giving up 10 win seasons in the Big Sky to fight an uphill battle
competing against the nation's elite.
The thing that people need to realize is that everything Idaho is doing athletically is the means to a worthwhile end. As is
generally the case, it takes time and effort to reach worthy goals. It might be easier in some ways for the Vandals to pull back their
horns in their 1-A quest, but it's certainly not the right course of action to take. Too much progress has already been made to look
back now. Too much is at stake in the future for the Vandals to fail today.
More specifically, what is Idaho doing and why? The first thing that people need to realize is that the move to 1-A has already
been a success. Personally, I wouldn't trade the Humanitarian Bowl season or the two recent wins over WSU for anything that the
Big Sky has to offer these days. In spite of the obvious drawbacks to playing games in Pullman, the fact is that the Vandals have
drawn crowds in Martin Stadium that wouldn't fit inside the Kibbie Dome. Thanks to the increased revenue generated by the move to
1-A in football, the entire Idaho athletic department has grown and is growing in ways that otherwise wouldn't be possible. Most
importantly, this athletic growth is in proportion to the growth experienced overall at the UI under the strong leadership of President
Hoover and is consistent with the vision that he and others have of what the University of Idaho can become in the future.
As previously stated, the Sun Belt is a stepping stone and not a destination point for Idaho football. The obvious goal for Idaho is
to join a Western 1-A conference in all sports. Some doubt that is doable but I disagree. While there are a lot of factors outside of
Idaho's control, the one certainty is that there will be more conference shakeups in the future and more opportunities will present
themselves to the Vandals as long as Idaho is taking care of their own business and doing the right things with their program. In
fact, the proposed new 1-A membership criteria could actually help Idaho. The Vandals can meet the new requirements but some
other schools across the country including some in the WAC may not be able to. Contrary to what some seem to believe, the
Vandals are not on the lowest rung of the 1-A totem pole. Once Idaho finds a home in a Western 1-A conference, the Vandals will
prove that they belo! ng there.
The one thing that I'm adamant about is that the Vandals hold the key to their own future. If Idaho takes care of their own
business, the rest will work itself out. The key is that the Vandal faithful have to step it up a notch to insure that Idaho's 1-A move is
a success for it is not a done deal at this stage. In fact, this is a critical time for the Vandals. Economic troubles are causing
budget problems and the Sun Belt may not survive the new 1-A rules. But if the goals that Senter laid out are met, the Vandals will
be fine. That's why it's extremely important that we all do what we can to help the Vandal cause just as Senter said.
Only because they are so often brought up, I'll touch on a few of issues that the nay-sayers like to bring up. In short, I do not buy
the line of thinking that Idaho cannot succeed in 1-A football due to the location of Moscow, the population base of the area or the
lack of a TV market. These are legitimate reasons why Idaho will have a tough time competing against the likes of LSU and
Michigan for the foreseeable future. However, they are no excuse for Idaho not being able to play their own version of 1-A football
successfully. The Vandals have already met the old standards to be a 1-A school. The Vandals certainly have it within their means
to meet the proposed new standards for 1-A schools. If the question is whether or not Idaho can be a legitimate 1-A school as
defined by the NCAA, the answer is a resounding yes!
Let's take a closer look at the demographics issue. First, there is substantial future growth planned for the University of Idaho
and Moscow will grow with it. Down in the LC Valley, considering all of the new construction going on down there, at least some
people are optimistic about Lewiston's future growth. Ninety miles to the North, the Post Falls-Coeur d'Alene area is growing faster
percentage-wise than any other area of Idaho. Furthermore, construction is about to take place to build a four lane highway between
Moscow and Lewiston. Additional construction is taking place between Moscow and Coeur d'Alene and eventually I'm sure there
will be a four lane highway connecting the entire northern part of the state not only to each other but also to Interstate 90. This will
only perpetuate the economic growth that is already taking place in the region. The point here as it pertains to the Vandals is that
w! hile the Kibbie Dome and 1-AA football would put a lid on the future growth of the entire Idaho athletic program, 1-A football allows
the program room to grow along with the University and the region it calls home. When you also take into account that the UI is a
statewide school getting support from and benefiting from the growth of the entire state of Idaho, it's clear that the Vandals can be a
solid 1-A football program in the future.
To summarize my point of view, I'd like to paint a couple of contrasting pictures. What if us Vandals drop the ball in the years
ahead and end up dropping back to the Big Sky as some would like? Well, for starters it's not the type of thing that anyone who
really cares about the University of Idaho would want to see happen. Athletics is the arm of the school that is most in the public
eye and anything perceived as a failure in that area would translate into negativity that could hurt the school as a whole. The
University of Idaho should be moving forward in all areas and athletics is an important part of the overall picture. On the field, the