Idaho State University Football Program – Rayce Christensen

The modern Idaho State University Football team was conceived in 1963. In the year of 1963 they moved from the Rocky Mountain Division where they had previously won 5 conference titles, to the Big Sky Conference they play in today. In 1963, the team made history by winning Idaho State University’s first Big Sky Conference Championship. Idaho State University pulled a win against one of the current day rivals, Weber State University. They had trailed 26-8 until they scored 28 points the fourth quarter to win the game, where Wichita had pulled out due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Don Neves, a freshman at Boise junior college, what is now Boise State University came to watch the team play in the spring and claims, “I knew it was a top of the line program, and its where I wanted to go to school.” During the 1963 football season, The Big Sky conference only had four teams during the 1963 season, which consisted of, University of Montana, Montana State University, Weber State and Idaho State University. Neve claims, “They really only had to beat three teams, but they were a lot better than that. Neves credits success to speed, brawn, a lot of persistence, and good head coaching from Babe Caccia. “he touched all of our lives” claims Neves.[1]

In the year of 1979 Idaho State University crawled through an 0-11 season. During the following three years, the Bengals would win only five of thirty-three games. This would change during the historic 1981 season. In this season, Idaho State would beat the number one ranked Eastern Kentucky for the FCS Championship. “Surreal is the appropriate word to describe it”-Brent Koetter, a Pocatello native who played defensive back for the Bengals during this time. This offensive powerhouse averaged nearly 30 points per game. Mike Machurek states, “We expected to dominate every game.” Mike Machurek was the current quarter back for the Bengals who lead the Big Sky in almost every passing category, and would go to play for the Detroit Lions. In 1981 the Bengals single season loss would come from Montana [2]when Machurek was benched for mononucleosis. Idaho State had a phenomenal 3rd down conversion rate of 45 percent, by far the best in the Big Sky. Idaho States passing game quickly overwhelmed the Big Sky with their aggressive attack from above, which in return forced the rest of the Big Sky division to re-build their defense. Many would agree it is quite the anomaly to go from 17 straight losses to a conference title. 1981 would arguably become Idaho State University’s most successful year, and will often be cherished and reminisced by those who played, and those who are native to the city of Pocatello. Later years would prove to be far less successful. In 1982 the Bengals would go on to win only three games in the regular season.

In more modern years, the Bengals have struggled to pull a season record greater than, 500, indicating losing more than half of the games in regulation season. From 2008 to 2010, the Bengals had won only one game per season in regulation, although consistency seems to be the lost key. Looking back on 2002 the Bengals were named Big Sky champions winning all but three regulation games. This trend will continue, while toggling through new head coaches hoping to stumble upon a miracle program. As of 2018 things may be turning in tide for the Bengals.

Early in the 2018 football season, the Bengals have had the best season start since 1981, currently 3-0 in the Big Sky conference, completely rocking one of their long time rivals. By the time the end of the Big Sky 2018 season, the Bengals finished 5th in the Big sky division and ended the season with six wins and five losses. That being said, the future looks bright for The Idaho Sate Bengals, with new head coach Rob Phenicie, we see what may be the beginning of a new football program that can add more competition to the Big Sky conference, bringing not only a new formidable team together, but perhaps the City of Pocatello as well.

-Rayce Christense


Work Cited

“1963 Bengal Football Team Returns to Campus.” RSS,

“1981 National Championship Named 28th Best Moment in Big Sky Conference History.” RSS,

Guernsey, Madison, and Jordon. “Time to Jump on the ISU Bandwagon – the Bengals Are Real.” Idaho State Journal, Idaho State Journal, 9 Oct. 2018,


[1] (Bengal Football Team Returns to Campus)

[2] Bengal news (Big Sky “50 Greatest Men’s Moments)