The Washington State Cougars and Idaho Vandals will square off on the gridiron for the first time in six years this September. The cadence of that series has slowed significantly as the Vandals look for higher-paying opportunities elsewhere and the Cougs seek to mix up their scheduling a bit more. Despite the football games happening less frequently than we’d like, we could always, and I mean always, count on the Battle of the Palouse continuing on the hardwood.
That is, until this year, apparently.
The Spokesman Review reported yesterday that for the first time since 1906, Washington State and Idaho won’t play one another in men’s basketball. At first, it appeared Washington State had done to Idaho what the Gonzaga Bulldogs did to the Cougs so many years ago and actually caused that annual rivalry game to come to a screeching halt. As it turns out, a Pac-12 scheduling rule is actually what largely got in the way.
More details from a source close to WSU hoops:— Craig the Recently Married Person (@TheCraigPowers) July 21, 2022
- PAC-12 requires a rolling 5-year NET average of 175. Scheduling UI meant balancing with a team in the 90s.
- WSU offered to pay UI to play in Pullman only, Vandals declined.
- Home-and-homes between high- and low-majors are rare https://t.co/LV0vR7A4Ei
Idaho finished at an absolutely dismal 325 in NET last year. It was the fourth-consecutive season that Idaho finished above 320 in NET—every year that the metric has been used. WSU could have scheduled another tournament bubble team to try and balance things out, but with reports out already that they’re likely meeting the Baylor Bears in mid-December and Kyle Smith’s penchant for putting decent to good teams on a non-conference schedule, it likely didn’t behoove the Cougs to do so.
Still, I’ll admit to being more disappointed in this than I expected. To be sure, as Craig points out, home-and-homes like the Battle of the Palouse are extremely rare anywhere in college sports, but it still stinks to see a century’s worth of tradition come to an unceremonious end. The teams will certainly play again (you cannot beat how easy that road trip is for either) but to see it discarded, even for a season, bums me out.
I even understand the Pac-12’s rule! It exists for good reason, and the conference probably wasn’t thinking about this series (nor should they have) when they made that rule two seasons ago.
No matter the reason ... man, this just stinks!