Updated at 3:10 p.m., Monday, September 10, 2007
CFB: Idaho, Wash. State need break from each other
By Nicholas K. Geranios
Like an old married couple, the rivals will take a break after Saturday's game in Pullman.
"You can keep a little life in it when it's every few years," said Robb Akey, coach of Idaho.
While the Battle of the Palouse has never had the national profile of Michigan-Ohio State or Texas-Oklahoma, players from those teams aren't sharing the same community most of the year, either.
Washington State (1-1) is based in Pullman, a town of about 25,000, while Idaho (1-1) is just down Highway 270 in Moscow, a town of about 20,000. Other than the two universities, there's not much there besides some farming.
The economies and social lives of the two towns are deeply intertwined. Sometimes too much so for WSU coach Bill Doba.
"Because of the proximity of the two schools, we are leaving ourselves open for disaster," Doba said Monday. "Our guys are constantly in Idaho. Their guys date some of our girls.
"Sooner or later, somebody is going to say something or shove somebody and we will have an unfortunate incident," Doba said.
How close are the two programs? Akey, in his first year at Idaho, was defensive coordinator for Doba at WSU the past few years. Coaches have long jumped between the two programs, and often socialize off the field.
"We're so close to each other," Doba said of Akey. "Sometimes you want to beat your buddies worse than anyone else."
The first college football game either school ever played was against each other, a 10-0 WSU win on Nov. 14, 1894.
In the days when travel was more difficult, the teams played most years before the series tapered off after 1978 in the face off 11 straight WSU wins.
It resumed on an annual basis in 1998, after Idaho jumped up to what was then called Division I-A. In the spirit of neighborliness, Washington State allowed Idaho to use its Martin Stadium for home games, because the Vandals' Kibbie Dome was then not big enough to satisfy I-A requirements.
Idaho actually won two straight in 1999 and 2000, before losing the past six games. Most of the recent games have been blowouts, including last year's 56-10 WSU win.
The 89-game rivalry is pretty lopsided, in part because Idaho played for years in the former Division I-AA. Washington State, of the Pacific-10, leads 69-17-3. Idaho, of the Western Athletic Conference, hasn't won since 2000.
The annual series doesn't make a lot of sense for either team, Akey said.
For Washington State, the perception is they should always clobber the Vandals.
"They can't win by enough," Akey said
The Vandals have nothing to lose in the game. But Akey said they also don't make that much money from the WSU game, despite playing a BCS foe.
While the cash-strapped Vandals in recent years have scheduled two and sometimes three games per season against BCS teams, trading probable losses for money, Akey wants to change that.
He would like to pay one, higher paying BCS game per year, such as the contest at No. 1 Southern California to open this season. Then he'd like to schedule one or two games against similar-level teams from the Mountain West or other conference, or one against a lower-division team.
No one is talking about permanently ending the series. The talk is of playing every other year or every three years.
"When you're doing it year after year after year, animosity is going to build up and the next thing you know you've got problems off the field," Doba said.