I got retweeted by a national sports writer named Greg Swaim. He wrote:

Love the hate mail from #BoiseState fans. Keep it coming, as it proves my point on your quality academics…#3 in the great state of Idaho!!

To which I responded:

@GSwaim #4 in Idaho. Lewis-Clark State College is a fine school.

To which he responded:

{my tweet} // Tweet-O-the-Day. Quality work!!

A little backstory. Boise State University is allegedly being considered for the Big 12. Though I seriously doubt it is. For all of the talk about how “it’s all about the money,” there is a degree of pride involved as well. Namely, you want to be in a conference with universities of at least some stature. It’s difficult to under-state where Boise State University stands, academically. Saying that they are #4 is actually being generous. They are fourth in a race between only four state universities. If you throw in BYU-Idaho, they’re #5. There’s also the College of Idaho, a private school, that is in a different category and so hard to compare. The top two universities in the state are the University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

Of course, when you ask people to name a university in Idaho, the first name that will typically come to mind is Boise State. BSU is the largest school in the state, but that’s not why. They are known for their football program. People may be vaguely aware of the University of Idaho (Sarah Palin went there), but almost nobody has heard of the others. This may be sad commentary on how we look at higher education, but for Boise State it actually represents an opportunity. They have the sort of publicity that $6m a year (roughly the deficit BSU’s athletic department runs) would actually have difficulty buying. Due to the publicity, and the fact that it’s a large school in the state’s largest city, they’re well-positioned to capitalize on this a way that few other schools can. If you want to go to a school with a football program worth seeing, it’s the only choice.

One of the big stumbling blocks, though, is the school’s name. Why they haven’t dropped the “State” from their name (as the former Troy State, North Texas State, and Memphis State did) I do not know. I have been told that the University of Idaho would never allow it because they want to keep BSU “in their place,” but BSU is the more popular school. On the other hand, U of I cranks out lawyers and BSU does not.

I also wonder if Boise State simply has too much invested in its name to change. The huge victories against Oklahoma and TCU in BCS bowls were under the BSU name. Do you walk away from that? If you’re a serious academic institution, yes you do. Boise State University reeks of the “State Universities” in California, second-rate institutions for the most part. The University of Boise, or even just Boise University, at least sound more similar to schools of better repute. As odd as it sounds, university names do matter.

The whole Idaho university system has actually become problematic in their desire to start up a medical school. Namely, because Idaho, Idaho State, and Boise State all could have a claim to it. Idaho is the state’s flagship university. Idaho State is the university with a focus on health care vocation training. Boise State University is in Boise, which is the only city in Idaho large enough to hold a medical school. So everybody think that they are entitled to it. And more to the point, everybody wants to make sure nobody else gets it. So the would-be medical students have to go to Utah or Washington. Or alternately, it’s all an elaborate ruse so that the state doesn’t have to foot the rather hefty bill that medical schools incur. At the very least, I doubt the state treasurer’s office is shedding any tears.


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15 Responses to I’m Famous (Idaho Universities)

  1. Peter says:

    Forgive me if I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was growing up in Connecticut the University of Connecticut’s refusal to play major league football was a persistent sore point with its graduates and may even have diminished the quality of the applicant pool. Graduates often complained that the lack of meaningful football meant that UConn had a low national profile and in turn made it harder for them to get jobs outside the immediate area. Over time the problem solved itself as UConn became a basketball powerhouse, and the university finally began playing real football about ten years ago.

    Something not entirely dissimilar still happens in New York. Only one (Buffalo) of the State University of New York’s four main campuses plays major league football, and this hasn’t helped the reputations of the three others or their graduates’ out-of-state job prospects.

  2. trumwill says:

    I believe that every state’s flagship (and preferably landgrant, if they are not one in the same) should get a pass to FBS football.

    Someone recently suggested that there ought to be an academic component: If you’re a USNWR “National University”, you can be FBS. If not, you can’t. That would prevent the mad rush to the highest level (taking place everywhere except in the northeast) while allowing all states (except Alaska and Vermont, which don’t field football teams) representation.

  3. Peter says:

    I believe that every state’s flagship (and preferably landgrant, if they are not one in the same) should get a pass to FBS football.

    I’m not sure how that would be of use in New York, as the SUNY system has four co-equal flagship campuses, three of which have only minor-league football. As far as I can tell, the other states which would benefit from the flagship pass would be the New England states except Connecticut and (in one year) Massachusetts, the Dakotas, Montana and Alaska.

  4. Scarlet Knight says:

    Peter: the SUNY system has four co-equal flagship campuses, three of which have only minor-league football

    Actually only two do; the alma mater of Tony Kornheiser has no football.

    Peter: the other states which would benefit from the flagship pass would be…

    Delawho? Delawhat? Delaware!

  5. Peter says:

    @Scarlet Knight:

    Right, I forgot that Binghamton doesn’t do football. Academically it’s the flagship of the SUNY system (Stony Brook may have a slight edge in sciences), but that concern with quality obviously doesn’t carry over to athletics. And yes, I also forgot about Delaware, but then again Delaware is an easy state to forget.

    One thing I’m wondering is how long the Ivy League universities can maintain their aversion to sports. They were among the first universities to develop football programs, yet today they field meaningless minor league teams. Their excuse that their focus on academics prevents them from having quality football is wearing very thin, as Stanford and Duke have Ivy-quality academic standards yet also play in the big leagues (quite well too, in Stanford’s case).

  6. trumwill says:

    Yeah, it mostly applies to northeastern states (Delaware geand a few sparsely populated in the west. Idaho may need the help soon, with the way things are going in the WAC.

    Regarding New York, you may put a cap on it or something. Of course, such a cap wouldn’t be necessary since I am not sure anyone but Buffalo would want one. New York is an odd duck, university-wise.

    I think the Ivy League continues doing what it’s doing indefinitely. It’s a really great deal. The Harvard-Yale game is even televised! I think that the service academies should follow suit.

  7. Scarlet Knight says:

    New York is an odd duck, university-wise.

    Yes, its only FBS school is Syracuse, which is private. For those who don’t know, Syracuse is about a four hour drive from NYC. People will root for St John’s in mens basketball if they are good. Since Storrs is on the other side of Hartford, UConn doesn’t make a blip in NYC.

    In the big time 5 professional sports, we have 10 teams to worry about. People just don’t care about college sports here.

    Peter: I also forgot about Delaware

    UDel is a very popular place for out-of-state students. 21 % of current freshmen are from NJ, while only 29 % are from DE itself.

  8. trumwill says:

    Yes, [New York’s] only FBS school is Syracuse,

    Nuh-uh. There are two.

    That’s not really what I was getting at, though. I was referring to the fact that you don’t have the traditional University Of New York* and New York State University. NYU makes UNY problematic, of course. SUNY is easily to verbalize than NYSU, but it’s still odd. Anyhow, the result is that they are simply called by their cities.

    Of course, New Jersey is another odd one, though Rutgers doubles down on the oddity by not simply being Rutgers U but Rutgers SUNJ instead. Crazy yankees. Though Virginia and Louisiana did a doozy on Virginia Tech and LSU respectively.

    That’s interesting about Delaware. I actually had a blog discussion on the subject recently, state universities that cater to residents versus those that cater to outsiders. I’ll probably be writing on it before too long.

    I have a theory that one of the non-BCS conferences will approach Delaware about making the upgrade and joining the conference to get Uncle Joe in their corner on the whole BCS issue.

  9. Scarlet Knight says:

    Nuh-uh. There are two.

    Nuh-uh. There are three actually. My error was that I meant BCS schools. I orginally typed FCS, and changed the second letter to a B instead of the first.

    Rutgers doubles down on the oddity by not simply being Rutgers U but Rutgers SUNJ instead

    Well if they didn’t then you would have a flagship state university without the state name anywhere in its name. Furthermore, we are sort of stuck with the name. Two of our directional schools have taken advantage, calling themselves the College of New Jersey and New Jersey City University, implying a breadth that they don’t actually have.

    Though Virginia and Louisiana did a doozy on Virginia Tech and LSU respectively.

    Do you mean because LSU can really be called LSU&A&MC and VATech can be called VPI&SU?

    I don’t know why New York evolved differently. Maybe because NYC had its own city colleges, and there was no good place or good reason to have a competing state university system at the time. Also Cornell is New York’s land grant college, even though it is private.

    What was the missing footnote? New York University, much like the University of Pennsylvania, look like they should be public schools.

  10. trumwill says:

    Nuh-uh. There are three actually.

    Army! I forgot Army!

    Well if they didn’t then you would have a flagship state university without the state name anywhere in its name. Furthermore, we are sort of stuck with the name. Two of our directional schools have taken advantage, calling themselves the College of New Jersey and New Jersey City University, implying a breadth that they don’t actually have.

    There’s nothing to stop Rutgers from being UNJ, just because there is a CNJ. Idaho has a University of Idaho and College of Idaho (private school, formerly named after a grocery store – not exactly, but sorta) and Texas has the University of Texas (well, lots of them) and Texas College (private HBCU). And of course BC and BU.

    Anyway, I would have guessed that Rutgers simply would be Rutgers University of New Jersey. It’s a little cleaner than Rutgers SUNJ.

    Do you mean because LSU can really be called LSU&A&MC and VATech can be called VPI&SU?

    Yeah, that. It’s a fun trivia question to ask which FBS colleges don’t have the word “University” in their full name, because Virginia Tech usually gets guessed. Interestingly, in Texas Tech and Louisiana Tech, the “Tech” isn’t short for anything (the same way that it is for Virginia and Georgia).

    What was the missing footnote? New York University, much like the University of Pennsylvania, look like they should be public schools.

    Tulane was originally the University of Louisiana, which is why LSU is LSU (like PSU). It was a public university at that time, though. It needed the help of a guy by the name of Tulane to keep going. There was one string attached, I guess.

    Southern Tech was almost renamed after somebody, giving it a name that, like Rutgers (and Marshall), makes it seem like it’s private to outsiders. The name in particular is associated with just about everything else at the university. Buildings named after kids and grandkids and all manner of people with that last name.

  11. Peter says:

    @ Scarlet Knight –

    As you (obviously) know, Rutgers has been positioning itself as NYC’s “home” college football team. It would make a lot more sense for a college that’s actually in the city to upgrade to major league football. St. John’s is the obvious candidate, as it already has a strong basketball tradition and probably could arrange to play its home games at Citifield. Fordham is the other possibility, though it doesn’t have quite as much of a sports tradition. That about exhausts the list of candidates; Columbia is in the Ivy League with all that entails, and NYU is about as non-sports-oriented as a university can be.

    I don’t know why New York evolved differently. Maybe because NYC had its own city colleges, and there was no good place or good reason to have a competing state university system at the time. Also Cornell is New York’s land grant college, even though it is private.

    The existence of the CUNY system shouldn’t have stopped New York from developing a meaningful state university system, as there is a whole lot of state outside the city. Today it’s a really bad situation, as the CUNY system has declined into a sick joke and the SUNY system is mediocre at best.

  12. Scarlet Knight says:

    BTW, Rutgers belongs on a list with Clemson, Auburn, Purdue, Cincinnati, and Louisville of public schools that sound private.

    If you asked people outside the northeast to name the schools in the Ivy League, Rutgers would get more votes than Penn or Cornell.

  13. trumwill says:

    I never confused Clemson and Auburn for being private, though that may be a regional thing.

    Cincinnati and Louisville never struck me as private. I went the other way, mistakenly assuming Miami was public. U of City schools make me think public.

  14. Scarlet Knight says:

    Jeez, Trumwill, I am really striking out with my list. At least you gave me Purdue.

    Here is why I make my assumption. During the heyday of the Big East, it had 9 schools. 5 of them had the name of its city in its name, yet were private (BC, Georgetown, Providence, Syracuse, Villanova). When Miami joined as the 10th member, it followed this trend. That’s why Cincinnati and Louisville threw me.

    As for Pitt, it is public, going against the Big East trend.

    When I wrote the list, I should have included Temple. The only ones who know it is public are me and Bill Cosby.

    The only reason I knew that Memphis is public is they were known as Memphis State during its Final Four non-appearance in 1985, coincidentally with three Big East teams.

  15. trumwill says:

    I get where you’re coming from, now. Being from outside the region, I was for a long while unaware that some of those BE schools were in towns of the same name. I will definitely give you Purdue, though I knew that one was public because I had a friend who wanted to go there from the time he was in elementary school. I used to think that Temple was an HBCU, because Bill Cosby went to Temple and Cliff Huxtable went to an HBCU (Hillman).

    In addition to Miami, I’d thought Tulsa was public until I was looking at law schools and it came up.

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