This Day In Sports: The great gridiron wait is over at C of I

May 14, 2012: “A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.” So said the legendary Frank Leahy of Notre Dame. Or was it Vince Lombardi? There are conflicting reports. At any rate, if that’s the case, the Middle Ages were over at College of Idaho. The Coyotes announced the return of football, effective with the 2014 season. In a crowded press conference on campus, athletic director Marty Holly and president Marv Henberg celebrated the culmination of a seven-year exploratory mission, bringing back a sport that had been dropped 35 years earlier.

College of Idaho planned to play in the Frontier Conference, a league that included Eastern Oregon and perennial NAIA power Carroll College. It was those two schools that were drawing a lot of the non-Division I talent from the Treasure Valley. Holly said local high school coaches were ecstatic. “Every year there are so many players they have to sell to Linfield, to Willamette, to Carroll,” said Holly. “They’re as excited as anyone.” Not only would C of I house the only small-college football program in Idaho, there wasn’t one in Nevada, nor was there a comparable one in Utah, said Holly.

“Boise State’s success has created a void for Idaho high school football players—smart kids that have no place to go,” added Holly. Which brings us to the olden days. The Coyotes and the Broncos overlapped during the first four seasons Boise State played as a four-year school. In fact, the two teams played the final game of the regular season each time. The Broncos dominated the first three contests, but the fourth was a nail-biter. In 1971, the C of I took Boise State to the wire before falling, 28-21. That was a pretty good Broncos team—the first to make the postseason in the modern era. Boise State beat Chico State in the Camellia Bowl, 32-28.

College of Idaho played football for most of the 20th century before dropping the sport after the 1977 season. The Yotes’ history included such events as the 1948 Pear Bowl and a game against the University of Mexico in Mexico City in 1952. The 1953 team was Northwest Conference champion, falling to Sam Houston State in the Refrigerator Bowl. The Yotes that year featured future San Francisco 49ers wide receiver R.C. Owens, he of alley-oop fame.

About eight months later, the Yotes would strike gold with their first coaching hire of the new era, snagging longtime offensive coordinator and one-time NFL quarterback Mike Moroski from the staff at UC Davis. C of I hoped to have about 50 redshirting charter players on campus in the fall of 2013 to begin preparations for the big reintroduction. Moroski, of course, still leads C of I today and has turned it into an NAIA Playoffs regular. And in the 10 years since its grand return, football has glued the campus together and has galvanized the community in Caldwell.

(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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