WSU Vs Idaho Beyond The Game: The Battle Of The Palouse

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Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Washington State Cougars receiver Bobby Ratliff (82) celebrates with lineman John Fullington (77) and receiver Gabe Marks (9) after scoring a touchdown during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers beat the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Eight miles. Actually, a little less than eight miles is all that separates the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho and Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington. When you are talking less than 8 miles between two major colleges in their respective states you are bound to have a rivalry at almost everything. That rivalry goes by name “The Battle of the Palouse”. When it comes to football, sadly, that rivalry has gone downhill and today is almost like just another game for both schools.

Just some quick facts on the rivalry:

  • Washington State leads the series 70-16-5.
  • The last time the Vandals of Idaho won it was 2000. 11 of the Vandals 16 wins against the Cougars came before the year 1926.
  • In 1945 the game was played twice.
  • Idaho’s home field, The Kibbie Dome, holds 16,000. WSU’s Martin Stadium holds 32,740.
  • The loser of the game’s fans had to walk back to their respected campus in a tradition called ‘The Loser’s walk’ along Washington State Route 270 many years ago.

In the early years of the rivalry the students and fans of the losing school would walk back to their campus along the highway, once dubbed the most dangerous highway in the nation. The winning school’s student body president would then have to wash the feet of the losing schools student body president after they completed their walk. (To see a video of the 1959 Losers Walk click here)

The game when it was played every year switching off home-schools was a big thing to the fans and meant more to them back then than it does now. As a student at Washington State I have seen very little talk about the rivalry and more about homecoming around campus. My best guess as to why is because of the lack of times that the two teams have played each other in the past 20 years.

Where did the rivalry come from? In 1893 the two schools that we now call the Vandals and the Cougars, were scheduled to play a game. A game that was to be decided at a later time. The Washington State squad was ready to play a game of rugby while the Vandals ready to play a game of football. The two teams faced off in a game where the Vandals won 10-0. The following year, the first actual Battle of the Palouse, took place in Moscow and resulted in the Cougars winning 10-0. The Cougars never looked back from winning this rivalry as they now lead the series 70-16-3

I was given the privilege to speak with some former and current Cougars and Vandals and I was not disappointed. Former Cougar linebacker, Dan Grayson, drafted in 1990 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the Former Vandals I spoke with linebacker Todd Fryhover, class of ’83. I was also able to speak with Kristoff Williams, a Washington State wide receiver in his junior year. On the Idaho side I spoke with Mike Marboe who is Idaho’s junior center.

Both Marboe and Williams said that this is “just another game on the schedule” and each felt that this game is winnable by their team as long as they are the better team on the field. Neither team had looked at the other more than just casually until Monday at practice.

When asked about the big win differential between the two teams over the series of the games Marboe had this to say; “The past is the past and you can’t focus on what has already happened. You have to look to the present and the future.”

If the Cougars were to play the Vandals in a game that happens if not every year every other year there is a big chance that this game would once again mean more to both the players and the fans. These players could stop looking at this game as just another game and start to look at is as a game that has bragging rights and some implications. The rivalry, in a way, stopped when former Vandal coach Robb Akey decided not to continue playing against the Cougars constantly after the 2007 season.