To me, the true spirit of what we do here at Midmajority is; exploring the strange, unfamiliar and sometimes forgotten corners of the Men's Division I College Basketball landscape. Some schools play in obscurity because they are hard to get to, others play second fiddle to a bigger, more established rival. If you were asked to locate the strangest venue that placates all of the above criteria you'd be standing on the campus of the University of Idaho.
Game #9-186: California-Davis Aggies at Idaho VandalsDecember 1, 2012 10:05 pm
Idaho's campus is dominated by the odd structure colloquially known as the Kibbie Dome which has an equally strange history. In 1969 there existed a previously built wooden football stadium on the site, which was burned in a suspected arson. Several months later the football stadium on the campus of Washington State University which is about four miles away was also burned in a suspected retaliatory arson. No one was ever caught or charged in regards to the arsons but blame when back and forth. With both teams needing new athletic facilities work was begun on the structures that are their respective campuses signature facilities today, the Kibbie Dome and Martin Stadium.
The Kibbie Dome never truly stopped being built and has undergone many renovations from its humble beginings as a concrete outdoor stadium. In 1975 the decision was made to enclose the structure, making it a multipurpose arena because the concept had been successfully tried at Idaho State's Holt Arena.
Originally Idaho had plans for a seperate football stadium and new basketball arena. But due to political wrangling and objections from both Idaho State and Boise State who felt the University of Idaho would have an unfair advantage athletically, this idea was scrapped. This was a major blow to Idaho athletics since it forced their football team to drop down from the highest level of NCAA football (University Football, now FBS) into the division that Idaho State and Boise State played at (Collgiate Football, now FCS) after the 1974 season.
When the Kibbie Dome was first enclosed it was done so out of wood and sealing foam. This poor engineering choice led to many problems such as leaks and overall structural instability and set off many new rounds of renovations over the years. When Idaho added the east end addition in 1982 which included athletic offices, locker rooms and training areas many observers began to refer to it as having the front end of a castle and the back end of a barn.
In 1976 the first Men's Basketball game was played there and it is referred to as the Cowan Spectrum when it is in its basketball configuation. The basketball configuration causes them to curtain off about half of the structure lengthwise and portable seating is installed around three sides of the court.
Moscow Idaho is not a place one would find themselves in by accident. Driving in, depending where you are coming from means a long trip on a one lane road in most cases. I had been previsouly warned that weather in the Pullman-Moscow area is much more severe than the weather in the nearby areas.
I had left the Spokane area earlier in the day in had driven about 80 miles or so across rolling hills on a calm sunny day. These hills could be treacherous when icy I thought. Over the years I have tried to get to this location coming from different directions. Coming from the West I could fly to Seattle then head East. If I made it thru Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, I'd still be left with a long ride on a one lane road all the way across the hills of Central Washington. Coming from the south would take you thru Hell's Canyon which is no easy driving. From the east is basically impossible because you'd have to cross a continental divide and there are vitually no roads heading in that direction.
I felt particularly lucky I was able to get in to town worry free and decided to check out the campus. Often times I kind of like to poke around a school to get a feel for what it is like to be a student there. Let's be honest there is a big difference between the feel of attending Harvard and attending Howard. Not that one experience is better than the other, just different.
As I was musing over the Kibbie Dome, I next decided to find Memorial Gym which is the temporary home of basketball until the football season concludes and the Cowan Spectrum is set up. Built in 1928 this structure was located across the street from the eastern portion of the dome. Originally I had overlooked the building because I had mistaken it for a campus chapel. But upon further inspection certain things were a bit different than what you might normally find in a chapel. The spire was surrounded by cowboy inspired bas-relief. A faux gothic church? Leave it to the Vandals.
The inside was rather stately in appearance (they left it unlocked).
There were only about seven rows of seating available for patrons to sit on.
Some of the other schools in the Big Sky also play at an alternate venue until football season concludes. (Northern Arizona, Idaho State)
Excited after my tour of campus I waited a few hours to finally be back inside the Kibbie Dome. There I found a fun crowd waiting and singing the Idaho fight song. One of the cool features of the Cowan Spectrum setup was that even though black curtains had been put up to create a more intimate atmosphere you could walk behind them in the area the field usually covers during football. In fact they had one of the several convenience stands in the building back there and a play area for kids. Joe Vandal the mascot came by to give me an unsolicited fist bump.
Idaho was 1-4 going into the game but played very well. Looking at their schedule they had played some good teams and hung in there including a win against Green Bay. Madison played great for Vandals scoring 21 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. I had thought UC Davis was probably the better team going into the game but their offense became a little stagnant when they got most of their points from only two players. I am looking foward to seeing how Idaho does in the WAC once conference play starts. They might be a dark horse here, not because they did any one thing well but they played good team basketball which is refreshing.
After the game I stepped outside and it was raining pretty hard. I knew my weather window in this area was coming to a close rapidly. As I high tailed it out of town it became apparent I was racing the seasons first snow. Once I hit elevation I got caught in a white out. I was forced to follow an 18 wheel vehicle at about 20 miles per hour for the rest of the night until I made it back across the continental divide by going North to Interstate 90 then East. But at least I made it out and Southern Utah was the next stop on my #bigskyroadtrip.
at IDAHO 73, CALIFORNIA-DAVIS 66
CALIFORNIA-DAVIS 1-4 (0-0) -- C. Hawkins 6-13 6-8 20; R. Howley 4-7 0-0 9; P. Mancasola 3-5 0-0 6; R. Sypkens 5-14 0-0 14; J. Ritchart 3-6 1-1 7; J. Adenrele 2-2 1-2 5; T. Les 1-4 0-0 3; D. Graham 0-1 0-0 0; S. Clayton 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-53 8-11 66.
IDAHO 2-4 (0-0) -- K. Barone 3-9 6-7 12; S. Madison 7-14 7-8 21; C. Hill 2-7 5-6 11; D. Douglas 2-3 3-4 8; M. Habeeb 0-4 0-0 0; M. Bell 2-4 0-0 4; W. Faines 2-4 3-4 7; M. Borton 2-2 0-0 6; M. McChristian 0-0 0-0 0; R. Harris Jr 1-3 2-2 4; J. Kammerer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-50 26-31 73.
Three-point goals: UCD 8-28 (R. Howley 1-4; R. Sypkens 4-11; T. Les 1-4; J. Ritchart 0-2; C. Hawkins 2-7), ID 5-12 (M. Borton 2-2; S. Madison 0-2; C. Hill 2-6; D. Douglas 1-1; R. Harris Jr 0-1); Rebounds: UCD 22 (R. Howley 10), ID 35 (K. Barone 8); Assists: UCD 13 (C. Hawkins 6), ID 10 (K. Barone 3); Total Fouls -- UCD 21, ID 11; Fouled Out: UCD-P. Mancasola; ID-None.