Is Boise State vs Idaho a Rivalry?

For those of the Millennial-generation it might be a silly question: Are Boise State and Idaho rivals?

The schools haven’t met on the gridiron in almost seven years.  Idaho hasn’t taken home the Governor’s Trophy since the year Michael Jordan last played for the Chicago Bulls.  Neither one is really a “Basketball School,” even if they are both improving and getting more exciting.  The teams aren’t really drawing a crowd either, so it’s fair to ask if anyone cares enough for the hardwood-matchups to be “chippy.”  The proposed question might not even make sense to a lot of current students at the Gem State’s two biggest institutions of higher-learning.

(Photos by Robert J Pfeifer)

So what is a rival anyway?

There are several definitions of the word:

  • A person or thing who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.
  • A person or thing that is in a position to dispute another’s preeminence or superiority.
  • Competing or standing in rivalry (competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field).

I grew up in the Treasure Valley with many Idaho-Alumni in my family.  I’ve attended both institutions and have been to over 70 Boise State football games in addition to over 20 Vandals games.  I’ve witnessed at least four head-to-head match-ups between the schools.  But at different times I’ve found myself on diametrically-opposed sides of the question.

It is a rivalry. No, it’s not.

By the first definition I don’t think it could be stated that the schools are rivals in the revenue-sports.  Boise State competes for New Years Six Bowls and Mountain West championships on the gridiron and Mountain West titles and NCAA tournament berths on the hardwood.  The Vandals are improving in football and are coming off of their third-ever bowl victory with a triumph over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last December in Boise.  But Idaho is scheduled to move to the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) after this upcoming season.  In basketball, Idaho competes in the Big Sky Conference and last won a conference championship in the regular season or conference tournament in 1990, a year before I was born.  That season also marked their most recent berth in the NCAA tournament.  Boise State and Idaho aren’t competing for the same goal, and while Idaho would certainly love to equal or outdo the Broncos, the inverse can’t be said about Boise State.

If it is posited that Boise State is superior or preeminet athletically, simply by a results-based standard, I don’t think it could be stated that Idaho is in position to dispute the Bronco’s preeminence or superiority.  The Broncos presently have a 12-game winning streak on the football field in the currently-dead game for the Governor’s Trophy (a streak that was ironically equaled by Idaho from 1982-1993 for the longest winning streak in the series).  Boise State’s average margin of victory during this streak is about 50-18 (or around 32 points per contest).

(Photos by Robert J Pfeifer)

On the hardwood the teams last played on November 25th, 2014 in an 86-75 Bronco-victory, at a “neutral-site” contest in downtown Boise two days before Thanksgiving.  It was Boise State’s sixth consecutive win in the series.

The Broncos finished tied for last place in the Mountain West with Air Force during their first season of league-competition in 2011-12.  Since then they’ve reeled off four consecutive 20-win seasons and are in-line to pull off the feat again this year, currently sitting at 16-8 with at least six games remaining.  Boise State has earned an NCAA tournament berth three times in the last decade and could make it four this season.

Idaho finished 18-13 overall in 2011-2012, earning a third-place finish in a Western Athletic Conference that now consists of New Mexico State and a bunch of schools nobody east of the Mississippi has likely ever heard of.  Since then they’ve put together three-straight losing seasons, followed by a 21-13 campaign last year that included a loss in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament and an opening-round loss to Seattle University in the College Basketball Invitational.

The Vandals haven’t had a seat at the Big Dance since 1990, though that season did cap a run of four appearances in 10 years for the boys from Moscow.

I don’t think the Vandal-Bronco relationship can be said to be a rivalry by the second definition either.

The third definition is where I think a small-case could be made that the Idaho Vandals and Boise State Broncos are rivals.

In the grand-scheme of things Boise State and Idaho are not competing for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.  As I’ve previously stated Boise State strives for Mountain West Conference championships in football and basketball, NCAA tournament berths on the hardwood, and New Years Six Bowl berths on the gridiron.

Idaho competes for none of those with the exception of tickets to the “Big Dance.”  The Vandals strive for Sun Belt conference championships and NCAA tournament berths but haven’t earned one of the latter in over two-and-a-half decades.

The Broncos and Vandals aren’t currently scheduled for any future contests on the hardwood or gridiron, but if the future holds more match-ups for Gem State-superiority it could be said that the schools were competing for the same objective or for superiority ON the same field or court.

It’s not a rivalry.

Follow me on Twitter @RobertJPfeifer.