In 1977, the College of Idaho parted ways with a 60-year football program with more than 225 all-time wins.
In recent years, the return of football became a popular topic of debate, so much so that a feasibility study in 2006 led to the school’s Board of Trustees to discuss the issue.
Late last week, the Trustees revisited the football debate and Monday, C of I president Marv Henberg announced their decision, and figuratively with his words, snapped the ball on a new Coyotes football program.
“I am pleased to announce the College of Idaho will extend its mission of providing excellent liberal arts education even further with the reinstatement of the college’s football program,” he said in a press conference in front of media, athletic department staff and several former C of I football players.
“I feel so great today,” said former player and C of I football coach Ed “Buzz” Bonaminio, a long-time supporter of reinstating football. “The weather helped make it a beautiful day and it was a beautiful moment for the College of Idaho.”
The first official snap of a football by the Coyotes is expected in September of 2014, but before then there are plenty more first downs the C of I needs to achieve before reaching the end zone.
What comes next?
“We really need to move quickly now, we have 28 months to get all this done,” C of I athletic director Marty Holly said of getting ready for the Yotes first kickoff. “Both president Henberg and I really want to start September 2014. I think we lose some momentum, if we can’t get ‘X’ done, then we lose some momentum.
“(It’s) real important that we start September 2014.”
Turns out there are plenty of ‘X’s, starting with forming the fund-raising committee and setting parameters for that committee to follow. Holly said that meeting takes place next week.
What will be the fund-raising goal?
Holly said there is no set-in-stone figure that will make or break football, but the plan approved by the Trustees predicted raising about $2 million by opening day. He adds that fund-raising will be on-going over the next 28 months, and beyond.
As for on-the-field issues, the first is who to play against?
The Coyotes hope to join the Frontier Conference in football only while maintaining its current affiliation in all other sports with the Cascade Conference.
Carroll (Mont.), Rocky Mountain (Mont.), Montana Tech, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon currently play football in the Frontier Conference, but Holly adds that the league will hold a strategy planning meeting next month, which will include discussion about adding the Coyotes for football.
“They have given us every indication that they would like to see us as part of their football portion of the conference,” Holly said. “I think that really helps them in not having to play teams twice, the geography of us is perfect, and our academic reputation helps us there as well.”
While the Frontier Conference is the Coyotes preferred new football home, Holly adds that the league’s decision would not derail the C of I’s football program, but could delay the timeline to kickoff.
That’s because the school will await world from the Frontier Conference before moving to hire a head football coach, giving that person the chance to know who he’ll play.
With good news from the Frontier Conference, a hiring committee will form in September, and a new coach will be hired and start January 1, 2013, working through the coming months “basically 90 percent recruiting, visiting high schools, introducing himself, letting people know that College of Idaho football is back,” Holly said.
Once a coach is hired, the school will begin purchasing equipment and planning a schedule while the coach works to bring in at least 35 players to start school in September 2013, according to the plan the Trustees approved. Holly hopes to see 50 student athletes that fall, though.
In January 2014, Holly said the new coach would complete hiring his new staff in preparation for the Coyotes first spring football, then have 100 football players on campus in the fall of 2014, ready for the first kickoff.
While the players, coaches, equipment and opponents are all falling into place, one more addition will be a new facility, with new weight rooms, office and much more.
“Hopefully we have the money raised, the plans draw, start construction, and these are just guesses, maybe 16 months out,” Holly said.
College of Idaho, 2014 and beyond
By opening day, football will have created plenty of changes on the C of I campus, and in Caldwell.
The city already has plans to upgrade Simplot Stadium, the former and future home for C of I football, and the Coyotes now will be involved in more renovation plans.
Some area to be addressed include upgrading the press box, use of Gabiola Fields adjacent to Simplot, as well as insuring ADA standards are met, Holly said.
The plan also calls for the football program to bring in 120 new students to the college, once at full strength, meeting the school’s current mission of increased exposure nationally and increasing total enrollment.
Then, there will be the addition of staff, and facilities, as well as the addition of a exciting new fall sport.
“I think the excitement and enthusiasm of a fall sport like that, it’s great for recruiting,” said C of I women’s basketball coach Reagan Rossi, adding coaches will bring in potential players for football weekends for them to see the excitement on campus.
“As football progresses and we get better and better, financially I think it will help our department overall and it will help our school overall, and that’s a big thing for us right now.”
Plus, the addition facilities will provide more potential practice and training space for all the Coyote athletic teams, as well as intramural programs, Rossi said.
While the Coyotes foresee more students and a new facility, one thing Henberg and Holly stressed, in response to current students concerns, was making sure the atmosphere on campus does not change.
Henberg stressed C of I football players will meet the high academic standards the school has set, be people of high moral character, and be part of the campus community, and not a separate click. Wins on the field will being secondary to meeting those criteria, Henberg said.