The rivalry scramble

kustra
Bob Kustra

We were wondering some weeks back when the celebration broke loose about Boise State University athletics joining the Mountain West conference whether all the social elements – and not just the financial elements – had been fully worked through. The nagging point was this: The conference shift probably would mean that Boise State’s Bronco football team would quit playing, at least most years, the University of Idaho Vandals. That point was noted in reports and discussions at the time, but downplayed or buried.

It shouldn’t have been. The BSU-UI match has for decades been the big athletic event in Idaho. It’s a big deal for a lot of people. Maybe not quite on the scale of the University of Oregon/Oregon State Civil War to the west, but a Big Deal nonetheless.

Now that’s coming home to roost. BSU President Bob Kustra, ordinarily a careful and diplomatic speaker, trash-talked (at an Idaho Statesman editorial board meeting) the UI, calling its culture “inebriated” and “nasty,” and suggested in essence that BSU had no reason to lower itself to that level. And that if BSU never plays the UI again, great.

Coming from Kustra, who’s sometimes been mentioned as a prospect for political office (but probably not again in Idaho), those remarks are a little stunning. Most university presidents are a lot more even-tempered about their fellow institutions; they do, after all, often have to work together.

Now Kustra’s comments, which he seems not to be walking back, in combination with the already-sore matter of a tossed tradition, have blown up. Today, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was asked what he was going to do about it. Otter did about as much as he could, which was to express support for the traditional game while pointing out (correctly) that football scheduling really isn’t in his bailiwick. You might guess, though, that some of the state Board of Education members will be getting a call from him sometime soon.

This isn’t anywhere near over yet, and it’s hard to see where exactly it does end . . .

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