Head Football Coach
While I do not know the man I really feel for our current coach. It seems to me that some major support is required and that it is critical to maintain that support through the first half of the season, which happens to look like a PAC-4 schedule. Why is the first half of the season so notable for Vandal fans like us?
The main reason is that the Vandals are not alone. Idaho is still young as a Division 1A team (we went D1A in 1996) and we must play some big road (can you say big revenue and regional exposure?) games before we get into the lower tier of 1A football. We open against the overrated Donkeys of Diesel Tech. and then its WSU, Oregon, San Diego State, and Washington. The experts say that we should not win any of these games. I say that the experts are wrong about the Boise junior college game, but the money is doing the schedule talking because WSU, Oregon, and Washington will host the Vandals and we are happy to make the date, collect the check, receive the exposure, and have the program changing opportunity to knockoff a national power.
If you want to change this picture, I am sure the Idaho Athletic Department will be happy to accept your annual donation and sign you up for regular giving. These games are scheduled years in advance and the administration can make alumni connections in the respective area at the same time. The connections and hopefully the record donations to the school will continue. Please consider setting a record for donations to the Athletic Department.
But what will the Vandals record look like after just five games? I say the Vandals will be 2-3, which means that we win in Boise and beat SDSU in the dome. That makes the WSU, Oregon, and Washington games all losses.
What will the fans think of a 2-3 season at that point? Maybe it will be "we should fire the coach". No one really knows for sure, but if that is the prevailing mood, then the fans are making a mistake because you cannot overlook the rest of the season. The experts have us picked to finish dead last out of 117 teams. In 1998 the expert opinion put the Vandals at dead last and we beat the air conditioner repairmen on the blue turf to win the conference, the state bragging rights, and the Humanitarian Bowl Berth. At the end of the bowl upset against Southern Mississippi on ESPN2, Chris Tormey, then Vandal Head Football Coach stated the semi-famous quote: "It's not where you start, it's where you finish".
How will the Vandals finish this season? I think that after a 2-3 start, the Montana game will end in a victory for Idaho. Then I predict that we will beat Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, and Louisiana-Lafayette before losing to North Texas. To finish the season, I predict that we will defeat both Arkansas State and New Mexico State in the dome. That means that we will close the season with a 6 and 1 finish and 8-4 overall. That makes our only conference loss to North Texas and should produce an automatic berth to the New Orleans Bowl in December.
Now let's compare the Vandals to some other teams that are either in our region or in the same circumstance as the Vandals. This group includes the other Sun Belt Conference Teams, some old opponents from our 1-AA history, and an independent (I say Sun Belt wannabe) Utah State.
According to Sports Illustrated the pathetic Donkeys of BJC have the 112th easiest schedule of 117 1A teams this year. Why would the experts make this rating of a powder puff season? Well, let's talk about that. They stop repairing small engines long enough to host the Vandals (0-1) on Labor Day weekend, then it's on the road to Arkansas (0-2) and Wyoming (1-2). They are at home for Utah State (2-2) and Hawaii's Rainbows (3-2) before they travel to Tulsa (4-2). After Fresno State travels to Boise (4-3) the dinks travel to San Jose State (5-3) and UTEP (6-3). Then they scrimmage Rice (7-3) and play Louisiana Tech (8-3) at home. BJC will end the season with a victory at Nevada (9-3) thanks to some timely assistance by some Reno bail bondsmen. A 9-3 season is a good job even though it was a forklift driver's test through a cupcake bakery loading dock. Will the highway trash pickers fire their new coach after just four games (remember I say 2-2 at that time)? No.
What about Wyoming? They start the season on the road for money at Tennessee (0-1) then on to Central Michigan (0-2). Hosting the South Idaho Junior College (0-3) and then to Seattle to take on the highly ranked Washington Huskies (0-4). Will Cowboy fans demand a new coach after 4 games? I don't think so. After that they entertain The Citadel (1-4), Colorado State (1-5), San Diego State (2-5), and Air Force (2-6). The next two are road games at UNLV (2-7) and BYU (2-8). After Utah at home (2-9) and traveling to New Mexico it should be a 3-9 season. If their fans say that their coach cannot get the job done, they might want to reconsider the schedule.
How will Nevada do this year? We used to play them in conference and the games were typically hard fought contests. Chris Tormey has work to do with a road games in Seattle to play WSU at the new Seahawk Stadium (0-1) then it's BYU (0-2) and Rice (1-2) at home. Then Colorado State comes to Reno (1-3) and on the road to Las Vegas (2-3). A fall trip to Hawaii (2-4) and then San Jose State at home (3-4) followed by trips to Louisiana Tech. (4-4) and SMU (4-5). UTEP comes to Reno (5-5) and then back on the road to Fresno State (5-6) before welcoming the Donkoes to Reno (5-7). Will Chris Tormey lose his job when the Wolf Pack is 1-4? Hmmm, but I doubt it.
Look at Colorado State (Administrator's Note: This article was submitted BEFORE CSU's upset victory at Virginia). They open at Virginia (0-1) then it's a home opener with Colorado (0-2) and a trip to UCLA (0-3). John L. Smith's Louisville Cardinals arrival will make it 0-4 before trips to Reno (1-4) and Fresno State (1-5). Wyoming comes to town (2-5) and then a loss at Utah (3-5) before BYU beats them at home (3-6). The season ends with two road games (not good for ticket sales; sounds familiar, huh?) at Air Force (4-6) and San Diego State (4-7). Do they fire the coach after a 0-4 start? I doubt it.
Before we look that the rest of our conference the Utah State schedule shows that the Utes come to campus to begin the season (0-1) and then it's a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to endure a thumping (0-2). Then 1AA Idaho State is in town so you would expect 1-2, but wait the next trip is to Iowa (1-3) as they have bills to pay too. Is the coach in jeopardy at the 1-3 crossroads? No, it's off to Boise (1-4) and then BYU at home (1-5). Wait, its gets better because New Mexico comes to your stadium (3-6) before you fly all the way (that's not cheap) to Troy State (3-7). These Sun Belt pretenders will travel to Middle Tennessee to end the season at 3-8. Ouch!
Louisiana Lafayette's Ragin' Cajuns open up at Texas A & M (0-1). Then it's Minnesota (the Golden Gophers traveling to Louisiana will look as ridiculous as when the WSU Cougars "dropped down" and traveled to Boise) at home (0-2) and a short trip to Houston (1-2). UAB comes to the swamps (1-3) and then a bus ride to Baton Rouge's Death Valley (1-4). After LSU has their way it's road trips to New Mexico State (1-5) and Middle Tennessee State (1-6). "I think we should fire that coach" might echo around the bayou, but both North Texas (1-7) and Idaho at home (1-8) means it will get worse. Then Arkansas State at home (2-8) and a trip to Arkansas (2-9) means the season ends at Louisiana Monroe (2-10).
You could say that Arkansas State has an easy schedule with a home opener against San Jose State (0-1) followed by Tulsa at home (1-1). Then it's a trip to Illinois (1-2) and a check to pay for the ride to Louisiana Monroe (1-3). But, it's not so easy when you are 1-3. Then it's Tennessee Martin (2-3) and Middle Tennessee at home (2-4). A tough road game at Mississippi (2-5) before hosting North Texas (2-6), New Mexico State (2-7), and Southern Utah (3-7). The season ends without ticket selling opportunities with away games at Louisiana Lafayette (3-8) and Idaho (3-9). Wow, let's blame it all on the coach, right?
Louisiana Monroe opens at Mississippi (0-1) and Kansas State (0-2) for more payola. 1AA McNeese State (1-2) and Arkansas State are on their field (1-3) as are Tulane (2-3) and Idaho (2-4). Then it's off to Las Cruces and New Mexico State (2-5) and Utah State (2-6). A trip to Dallas and North Texas State (2-7) and a bruiser of a game at Auburn (must be their homecoming) will yield 2-8. Travel to Middle Tennessee State (2-9) prior to hosting Louisiana Lafayette to end with a 2-10 record. Did anyone really think that you could beat Mississippi and Kansas State from the beginning? Must be the coach, right?
New Mexico State will earn some frequent flier miles as they travel to South Carolina (0-1), then Cal. (0-2) before big brother New Mexico arrives (0-3). Wait, there's more because the next trip is to Georgia (0-4) before some relief with UTEP at home (1-4). There are two home games with Louisiana Lafayette (2-4) and Louisiana Monroe (3-4) before traveling to Arkansas State (4-4). A contest with Middle Tennessee at home (5-4) followed by trips to Utah State (5-5), North Texas (5-6) and Idaho (5-7). The Aggies will be road warriors and road weary this year. Must be the coach. Yea, right.
North Texas went 5-6 in 2001, but went to a bowl game as the only team with a losing record. This year looks about the same for the Mean Green. A trip to Texas (0-1) and then Nichols State at home (1-1) followed by check collection stops at Alabama (1-2), TCU (1-3), and Arizona (1-4). Do you fire the coach because you are competing to be a road warrior? No, you let South Florida come to town (1-5) and then go to Arkansas State (2-5) and Louisiana Lafayette (3-5). Louisiana Monroe comes to your field (4-5) followed by the Vandals (5-5) and New Mexico State (6-5). The season ends at Middle Tennessee State for a 6-6 mark. I guess the coach could not handle Texas, Alabama, and Arizona. Hmmm.
Last there is Middle Tennessee State who is slated for nothing but good things this year. Although the same prediction was made last year, it looks like another road warrior campaign. Three consecutive weeks on the road at Alabama (0-1), Tennessee (0-2) and Kentucky (0-3) before they wallop SE Missouri State (1-3) and bus over to Arkansas State (2-3). Now you're 2-3 and should the coach lose his job? No, let's ride over to Vanderbilt (2-4) and then beat Louisiana Lafayette at home (3-4) before a long trip to Moscow. A loss to Idaho in the dome (3-5) and then home for about 4 days before another long trip to New Mexico State in Las Cruces (3-6). Louisiana Monroe at home should be no problem (4-6) and two more home games end the season: North Texas (5-6) and Utah State (6-6). Wow a 6-6 season after you were predicted to do very well. What do you do with the coach?
Let's keep a few dates in mind this year. The first is August 31 as that is a real litmus test for our new and improved defense on the ugly blue turf of Oil Change Junior College. Why, because difficult games (that we are supposed to lose) with WSU, Oregon, and Washington are just around the corner for Idaho. Not to mention Mountain West Member San Diego State and D1AA Montana. That takes the Vandals through October 5 and the mid-way point of the season. What about our coach? Well, at that point we would be 3-3, and are a contender for a bowl game in New Orleans. Fire the coach? No, I don't think so. Go Vandals!
So the Vandals (and others) have some real milestones this season. We have a daunting road schedule against three highly charged and nationally ranked opponents. Idaho plays a non-conference schedule that is much tougher than many school's conference schedule. It seems to me that the coach needs the major support of all Vandal fans throughout the entire season. Idaho plays Oregon, WSU, and Washington because of strategic reasons such as their Northwest location, the payouts, and the exposure. I hope that Vandal fans will support the coach for strategic reasons such as the need to continue to build a program and to provide the coaches and staff the resources and foundation that is described in the Vandal Victory Plan.