Listen to that.
Now listen to it again.
You know what that is, right?
It’s Jon Newlee, the head coach of the University of Idaho’s championship-winning women’s basketball program, immediately after beating Idaho State 67-55 in the Big Sky championship game responding to shit-talking Bengals fans who can’t stand the fact Newlee took an upgrade to come to Moscow eight years ago.
Indeed, the grass is greener at the state of Idaho’s Flagship institution. Especially when there are championship programs all around the athletic department.
Though, you may not have noticed amidst the incessant bitching and moaning surrounding the football program’s decision to drop to the FCS level in 2018.
Before you berate me, understand that I as well am pissed about Idaho hastily making an FCS drop without an in-depth analysis and thought about what may happen in the immediate future of the college football landscape.
More on that later, because this is what I really want to say.
Please also understand powerful hyperbolic emotions painting the entire athletic operation as a disaster because of this one program and this one situation disrespects and disregards the fact that the Vandals are actually doing a lot of good things right now.
It may not be your intention. Some of you may not need the message I’m about to give you.
The rest of you pay attention: Women’s sports at Idaho are really fucking good.
The Futbol Vandals, a sadly underfunded program whose home field is literally just a fence around an unhealthy bed of grass, already have a 3-1 thrashing of Grand Canyon and a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Gonzaga under their belt this season. They’ve also beaten Seattle U and Boise State on the road. They’re the defending regular season Big Sky champions, having not lost a single conference game last season.
Derek Pittman’s squad were only denied the NCAA Tournament because of a penalty kick shootout loss, something based as much on luck as it is on skill.
Now they’re a little pissed about it and hope to resolve the issue with 11 returning starters. These ladies are worth a follow this season while you’re occupied with college football.
When I first walked into the Argonaut I learned basketball and football would be out of my reach that first year. Instead, my first experience at Idaho was covering the women’s soccer team, then managed by Pete Showler.
Turns out it was one of the only beats on campus at the time where I’d be covering a winner. Despite lacking the resources programs like Fresno State and Utah State had at the time, Showler developed Idaho into one of the best programs in the conference.
If you enjoyed how zealously I covered basketball and football over the last four years, you can thank the women’s soccer program for acclimating me to it.
Now let’s go back to basketball. I won’t drown you in talk of awful facilities. This is the one sport where you’re aware something desperately needs to get done.
Jon Newlee wins anyways. He recruited a trio of freshmen in the fall of 2012 who became the most accomplished basketball players in the history of the school. Idaho had one NCAA Tournament appearance in their history prior to Ali Forde, Connie Ballestero and Christina Salvatore arriving on campus.
The school now has four NCAA Tournament appearances.
You can pine for the days of Don Monson in the 80’s, or you can cheer for your tequila-loving, championship-winning, shit-talking coach who loves Moscow as much as you do.
In 2013-14 I had a choice of what I was going to cover. After football, of course, I’d be moving on to men’s basketball as the Vandal Nation manager. But I decided to give the men a hard pass. I wanted to cover Newlee’s girls.
I handed the men’s basketball beat to my eventual successor and dedicated myself on delivering the women’s basketball program the day-to-day coverage befitting of a team which ended up going 15-1 in conference play and clinching the first back-to-back NCAA Tournament bid in program history.
And that was the last team I covered before graduating from Idaho and departing The Argonaut. After getting two more years to cover football and men’s hoops for the Spokesman, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Here’s your three-time defending conference champion women’s tennis team. Vicky Lozano, arguably the best player in school history, graduated after winning the WAC in 2014.
Idaho went ahead to win the Big Sky tournament twice without her anyways.
I don’t expect you to watch tennis. I don’t watch tennis. But I follow the team on social media, show them love, and acknowledge this sport is doing good things.
By the way, tennis is another sport that doesn’t have shit on campus in terms of facilities. Moscow High School has courts as good as the ones next to Memorial Gym. They often have to go to Lewis-Clark State to play “home matches.” (For what it’s worth, the exceptional men’s tennis program suffers from the same situation).
They win anyways.
The golf team won the 2016 Big Sky championships a year after sending Leilani Kim to the national tournament.
The longest-tenured and one of the most successful coaches on campus runs the Volleyball program. While she’s only been to one NCAA Tournament, the program has always consistently competed with better funded programs and should clearly be a contender year after year in the Big Sky. Hawai’i, a consistently top 15 program in the nation, continually blocked Idaho while the Vandals were in the WAC.
Cross Country took four consecutive WAC championships with prodigious talent Hannah Kiser before leaving the conference.
You watch the Olympics? We were there too.
Angela Whyte competed in hurdles for Canada at the age of 36.
Kristin Armstrong, who resides in Boise, came out of retirement at the age of 42 to win her third Olympic Gold Medal in cycling.
She’s a Vandal.
Again, I’ll be living, breathing, and probably dying Vandal football with you all this fall. But while you’re screaming at those behind the scenes who make the football decisions – as much as they deserve your ire – remember there’s still many who make us proud to be Vandals every day.
Especially these ladies.