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Know your enemy 2015: Idaho State

"If you don't have enemies, you don't have character." —Paul Newman

Nothing gets you over a loss like a home game against a Big Sky school. Turns out, this particular Big Sky school has quite the history with Boise State. Not a necessarily great history, but a history nonetheless. Let's get to know our enemy.


Ten things you might not know about Idaho State or their Pocatello pad

10) Pocatello, Idaho—the home of Idaho State University—is named after a Shoshoni Indian chief who puzzlingly didn’t actually like the name and went by Tonzaosha. Tonzaosha means "buffalo robe" (you know…like that song that goes "O give me a home, with a buffalo robe, and the deer and the antelope play…), but his daughter claimed that "Pocatello" actually meant nothing. So the early settlers of the Portneuf River valley said "nothing it is" and just totally went with it.

In 1834, a fur trader named Nathaniel Wyeth established a trading post just north of the the current city limits called Fort Hall that later was acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company and was an important stop on the Oregon Trail. About 40 years later, a railroad magnate by the name of Jay Gould extended the Utah and Northern Railway line into Idaho and made a stop in the Portneuf Canyon called "Pocatello Junction". Within 5 years a town had sprung up around the junction featuring residences, commercial developments, and buffalo robe emporiums.


A robe for every season

9) Pocatello’s first mayor—Edward von Stein—was the grandson of an honest to goodness Baron…Baron von Stein, who was the commander-in-chief of the Prussian army during the Napoleonic wars. His father, William von Stein, was imprisoned for following a renegade reformer named Carl Schurz (who tried to bring democracy to Prussia Germany). Back to Edward, though—he was born in Poland in 1854, educated in Bromberg and boarded a ship to America in 1871 without a passport and subsequently had to bribe a ship’s officer to not toss him overboard.

Stein got all the way to Chicago before his funds ran out (probably shouldn’t have given the ship’s officer so much dough) so he pawned his belongings and resigned himself to a life on the streets of ChiTown (at the time, pretty much a giant stockyard). Edward's fortunes changed, however, when he was mugged in the street…wait…what? Yes, Stein’s would-be robber found him to be so devoid of money and valuables that he took him to a restaurant, bought him a meal, and helped him get a job as a Polish interpreter at a brickyard. Over the next few years, Stein moved all over the western United States eventually making (and losing) a fortune in mining before becoming the superintendent of car service on the Oregon Short Line railroad—whose headquarters were in…you guessed it…Pocatello. He became mayor of the tiny burg and then unexpectedly resigned his mayoral office before his term was up to help form the town of Nampa, Idaho. Sugar beet enthusiasts and slow drivers thank you, sir.

8) Idaho State University was founded in 1901 when Idaho Governor Frank Hunt (this Ben Kingsley-looking dude) signed Senate Bill 53 that established the Academy of Idaho. Classes began the following year under "principal" John W Faris and by 1910 the school had almost 300 students…enough growth to necessitate the purchase of more land. In 1915, they renamed the school the Idaho Technical Institute and enrollment surged to nearly 1,000 students, but that name was also short-lived and the school became University of Idaho—Southern Branch in 1927…a title it kept for the next 20 years until it was re-christened as Idaho State College in 1947. In 1963, the school became a full four-year university and with that came one final name change…the Idaho State University we all know and love…or at least kind of know and don’t necessarily love, but like okay "as a friend".


An early ISU typing class practicing their craft

7) Idaho State played their first season of football all the way back in 1902…incidentally, the first year that the Rose Bowl was played (Stanford v Michigan). The upstart Bengals finished their season 5-0 after running roughshod over area high school teams (some more than once). The squad didn’t give up a single point that first year under coach Herbert "Don’t Call Me Lon" Chaney whilst defeating Pocatello High School an impressive FOUR times. The following year, Chaney’s squad was a little less dominant and the opponents were harder to come by—the 1903 Bengals went 0-1-1 with a loss to Boise High School and a tie to someone or something called ‘Co. K.I.N.G’. "The Academy" had mixed results for the first several years of their existence and couldn’t keep a coach around for long until Harvey R. Holmes came along in 1909 and stuck around for six whole seasons (going a respectable 28-10). Holmes is somewhat notable, as his career was basically the inverse of most coaching ladder ascensions. He coached Utah and USC (at the time, competing as 'The Methodists') prior to becoming the Bengal head-man. He had winning records with all three teams, but the school that we now know as ISU was his final stop. The lure of buffalo robes was a siren song for journeyman coaches, you see.

Undefeated on the field and in the sock game.

6) Most every school has been on the giving or receiving end of an epic beatdown, and it so happens that Idaho State is no exception. On Halloween day in 1931, the Bengals traveled to Dillon, Montana and went ‘scorched earth’ on the Montana Western Bulldogs—defeating them 111-0. The Bengals were coached that day by Felix Plastino, a University of Idaho alum that taught Agriculture and Biology at the school. The Bulldogs, rumor has it, were coached by a duffle bag full of corn muffins. You may scoff, but up until that fateful day, the duffle bag was considered a ‘rising star’ in the coaching profession and had recently made a dynamic assistant coach hire of a knapsack full of tiny rocks.

5) Of course, Idaho State didn’t escape the inverse result…and perhaps Plastino’s plastering was a make-good for a game that had taken place 12 years earlier when the Bengals ventured in to Logan, UT and limped out of town after a 136-0 loss at the hands of the Aggies. The anti-Plastino that day? Coach Reuben Bronson—who was coaching his final game that day and apparently had a case of ‘senioritis’.

4) Proving the plotline of the 1987 film Teen Wolf Too is plausible…boxing used to be a sanctioned collegiate sport, and once upon a time, Idaho State was pretty darn good at it. In fact, the Bengals won the NCAA national boxing championships in 1953 AND 1957 behind legendary coach Milton "Dubby" Holt (yep, the mini-dome’s namesake). There was perhaps no brighter star on Holt’s championship-caliber squads than Hayes Edward "Big Ed" Sanders, whose career at ISU propelled him to incredible (if short lived) heights.

Big Ed

In 1950, Hayes was competing at the National Junior College Boxing Championships for Compton College when he caught the eye of Dubby Holt and ISU football coach Babe Caccia. Sanders was offered a scholarship to the school to play both sports and quickly flourished on the collegiate boxing scene—knocking out the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Champion in his first bout. Sanders went on to never lose a collegiate bout and after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he made the Olympic Boxing team in 1952. At the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Sanders cruised easily to the title bout against Swedish champ Ingemar Johansson. Johansson, perhaps scared of Sanders’ power or just really committed to calisthenics ran from Big Ed the entire fight until he was disqualified in the 3rd round for a failure to fight. Sanders won the gold medal, became the first African American Olympic Heavyweight Champ and Johansson was denied his "earned" silver medal for 30 years. Just two years after his Olympic triumph, Sanders fought New England Champion Willie James in Boston—was knocked down in the eleventh round and never regained consciousness. Sanders died on December 12th, 1954 and was buried in Santa Monica, CA with military honors. You can watch Sanders’ gold medal match against the "circling Swede" in it’s entirety below.

3) What do you do when you’re one of the world’s leading authorities on something that many in your field find to be a joke? If you’re Idaho State’s Jeffrey Meldrum—a professor of anatomy and anthropology, you just shrug it off. Meldrum is a perhaps one of the most highly-respected researchers in the world, but his area of "expertise" remains somewhat controversial. What is Meldrum’s claim to fame? He’s one of the globe’s most trusted authorities on Bigfoot. Meldrum, the author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science is an expert on "foot morphology" and "primate locomotion", so if you have an unusual footprint casting that you found while hiking near Idaho City…Meldrum is the guy to send it to. Of course, if you do—be sure to include return postage because I’d really like that casting back thank you very much.



2) One of Pocatello’s nicknames is the "U.S. Smile Capital", primarily based on a 1948 gag ordinance by mayor George Phillips. The ordinance was the result of an unusually severe winter in Pocatello which had "dampened the spirits" of the town’s residents. Phillips decided that he’d make it illegal to not smile in Pocatello. Anyhoo, the ordinance…although passed as a tongue-in-cheek way to browbeat sadsacks, was unintentionally never repealed meaning that for well over 40 years it was kinda sorta actually illegal not to smile in Pocatello. Nowadays "Smile Days" is held annually in Pocatello…which includes a "smile contest" and mock arrests of people that aren’t smiling. This is the inadvertently creepiest thing I’ve ever heard of. So remember, if you are in Pocatello and are approached by police officers, flash a smile at them…maybe they’ll let you off easy…or tase you.

1) Our Boise State Broncos are no stranger to triumph or heartache and though historically, we’ve had the upperhand over the Bengals of Idaho State—24-6 since we’ve been a four-year institution—a few of those six losses have really stung. The last Idaho State win over the Broncos came in 1994, the same year the Broncos earned a berth in the 1-AA National Championship game. Turns out, the somewhat inexplicable (the Bengals were 6-5 that year) 1-point loss lit a fire under Pokey Allen’s Bronco team as after the defeat, didn’t lose again until a title game loss to Youngstown State. Two years prior, the Broncos—led by Coach Skip Hall—were well on their way to a victory over the Bengals in Pocatello when ISU pulled off the now infamous "Globe of Death" play with just 22 seconds left in the game. I'll let you listen to the call for yourself but if you're old enough you'll probably remember the Skip Hall-era killing trickery.

By the way, the guy that actually had the ball, ISU's Robert Johnson, is the father of Boise State defensive back Isaiah Johnson. Wonders never cease.