|1971 Idaho Vandals football|
Big Sky champion
|Conference||Big Sky Conference|
|1971 record||8–3 (4–1 Big Sky)|
|Offensive coordinator||Bobby Thompson|
|Defensive coordinator||Ray Fulton (2nd season)|
|MVP||Ron Linehan (LB)|
|Home stadium||Idaho Stadium|
Bronco Stadium (Sep 11)
Joe Albi Stadium (Sep 25)
|1971 Big Sky Conference football standings|
|No. 7 Boise State||4||–||2||–||0||10||–||2||–||0|
Rankings from College Division AP Poll
The 1971 Idaho Vandals football team represented the University of Idaho in the 1971 NCAA University Division football season. The Vandals, led by second-year head coach Don Robbins, were members of the Big Sky Conference and played the final three of their five home games at the new Idaho Stadium, an outdoor facility on campus in Moscow, Idaho.
The Vandals won their first outright conference title in 1971, which included an eight-game winning streak after opening with two losses. Idaho finished 8–3 in the regular season and 4–1 in the Big Sky. At the time, it was the best record in school history.
A third consecutive season opened without a home field, as the new Idaho Stadium was not quite finished and there was no suitable venue available on the Palouse. After the wooden Neale Stadium (1937) was condemned in August 1969, the Vandals played their limited schedule of Palouse home games at the wooden Rogers Field at WSU in nearby Pullman in 1969 and 1970. The primary (south) grandstand of Rogers burned in April 1970, and was razed in 1971; in its footprint Martin Stadium was constructed and opened in September 1972.
The Vandals' season opener was a stunning 14–42 upset loss at Boise State in the first meeting between the two teams, creating an instant rivalry game. This was actually an Idaho "home game" moved south to Boise, because the new stadium in Moscow was behind schedule and not completed. Boise State had been a junior college program through 1967, moved up to NAIA in 1968 as an independent, and joined the NCAA "college division" (Division II) and Big Sky in 1970. Idaho had played a home game every season in Boise in the old wooden Bronco Stadium through 1968; this ended when Boise State joined the Big Sky.
The Colorado State game on September 25 was played at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, The Vandals shut out the CSU Rams 10–0 to begin their eight-game winning streak; the Rams' star running back was Lawrence McCutcheon, who was selected for multiple Pro Bowls while with the Los Angeles Rams.
The new Idaho Stadium opened with a 40–3 Vandal victory over Idaho State on October 9. The unlit outdoor concrete stadium in Moscow replaced Neale Stadium in the same footprint and continued with a natural grass surface. It was the first game played on campus in nearly three years, the last was a win on November 2, 1968. Artificial turf, 3M Tartan Turf, was installed in 1972, and the facility was enclosed in 1975 to become the multi-purpose Kibbie Dome.
After four consecutive road victories, the Vandals finished the 1971 season at home with a 40–2 victory over Montana State to wrap up the Big Sky title, and a disappointing 13–42 non-conference loss to Utah State in the finale. Boise State finished at 10–2 with a postseason win, but its two losses were in league play and finished second in the Big Sky at 4–2.
Although a charter member of a conference whose other members were "college division" (Division II) for football, Idaho maintained its status as a "university division" (Division I) program with the NCAA by playing only "university division" opponents in its non-conference schedule. That is why runner-up Boise State went to the Camellia Bowl in 1971, and when the Division II playoffs arrived in 1973, the Vandals were again ineligible, as they were in Division I. (Idaho was a member of the conference primarily for basketball, in Division I.)
The Big Sky moved up to the new Division I-AA in 1978, and Idaho was forced to move down. In 18 seasons in I-AA, the Vandals reached the post-season playoffs 11 times, missing only once in the final 11 seasons of 1985–95.
Idaho returned to Division I-A in 1996 with a move to the Big West, and then to the WAC in 2005. (The Big West dropped football after 2000; Idaho was a "football only" member of the Sun Belt for four seasons, 2000–04.) The WAC dropped football after the 2012 season and Idaho athletics rejoined the Big Sky in 2013 for all sports except football, which was independent in 2013, rejoined the Sun Belt in 2014, and the Big Sky (FCS) in 2018.
|September 11||7:00 pm||Boise StateΔ||L 14–42||16,123|
|September 18||11:30 am||at Iowa State*||L 7–24||25,000|
|September 25||7:30 pm||Colorado StateΔ*||W 10–0||12,600|
|October 2||at Montana||W 21–12||12,000|
|October 9||1:30 pm||Idaho State||W 40–3||14,200|
|October 16||2:00 pm||at Pacific*||W 13–12||10,132|
|October 23||6:00 pm||at West Texas State*||W 26–0|
|October 30||6:30 pm||at New Mexico State*||W 19–14|
|November 6||12:30 pm||at Weber State||W 24–20||8,404|
|November 13||12:30 pm||Montana State||W 40–2||12,900|
|November 20||12:30 pm||Utah State*||L 13–42||15,100|
|1971 Idaho Vandals football team roster|
Six Vandals were named to the all-Big Sky team, two on offense and four on defense: halfback Fred Riley, guard Andy Kupp, defensive end Rick Simmons, noseguard Steve Barker, and linebackers Ron Linehan and Rand Marquess. The second team also had six Idaho players, with four on offense and two on defense: fullback Frank Doctor, wide receiver Jack Goddard, tackle Larry Bosma, center Ken Muhlbeier, defensive tackle Bill Cady, and defensive back Kelly Courage.
Linehan's selection was his third consecutive, and he was also named the team's most valuable player. Three weeks after the season ended, he received a gunshot wound to his left side; he spent less than two days at Gritman hospital and was released. His younger brothers were also starters for the Vandals: Rick was the strong safety in the late 1970s and Scott was the quarterback in the mid-1980s.
Three Vandal seniors were selected in the 1972 NFL Draft, which lasted seventeen rounds (442 selections).
|Fred Riley||WR||6th||146||Atlanta Falcons|
|Andy Kupp||G||10th||241||New Orleans Saints|
|Ron Linehan||LB||17th||428||Pittsburgh Steelers|
One junior was selected in the following year's draft in 1973, also seventeen rounds (442 selections).
|Ken Muhlbeier||C||16th||400||Denver Broncos|
Two sophomores were selected in the 1974 NFL Draft, which lasted seventeen rounds (442 selections).
|Bob Van Duyne||G||10th||240||Baltimore Colts|
|Randy Hall||DB||13th||317||Baltimore Colts|