46°43′34″N 117°01′05″W / 46.726, -117.018

1981 [[Script error]]
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ConferenceBig Sky Conference
DivisionScript error
1981 record3–8 (0–7 Big Sky)
Head coachJerry Davitch (4th season)
Offensive coordinatorBill Tripp (4th season)
Offensive schemeVeer
Defensive coordinatorLeland Kendall
(2nd season)
Home stadiumKibbie Dome
← 1980
1982 →
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Template:1981 Big Sky football standings

The 1981 Idaho Vandals football team represented the University of Idaho in the 1981 NCAA Division I-AA football season. The Vandals, led by fourth-year head coach Jerry Davitch, were members of the Big Sky Conference and played their home games at the Kibbie Dome, an indoor facility on campus in Moscow, Idaho.

Led by sophomore quarterback Ken Hobart in the veer offense, the Vandals finished 3–8 in the regular season but were winless in the Big Sky. In the season finale, Idaho lost to rival Boise State for the fifth straight year, but it was the Broncos' last win over Idaho until 1994, as the Vandals won a dozen straight in the interim.

In August, Sports Illustrated had picked the Vandals as one of the top teams in Division I-AA,[1] with high expectations to improve on the previous year's 6–5 record.[2] But after a fifth straight loss and no wins in six conference games, Davitch was fired nine days before the final game against Boise State.[3] Several weeks later Dennis Erickson was hired and immediately turned the Vandal program around in 1982, reaching the quarterfinals of the 12-team Division I-AA playoffs.

In 1981, Idaho State and Boise State were the top two teams in the Big Sky and both advanced to the 8-team Division I-AA playoffs, won their first-round games, and hosted the semifinals. Boise State was stopped by Eastern Kentucky, whom Idaho State defeated the following week in Texas to win the national title.

Notable playersEdit

Sophomore quarterback Ken Hobart of Kamiah changed from an option quarterback in the veer to a prolific passer under Erickson. He led the Vandals to a 9–4 record in 1982 and an 8–3 record in 1983 as a senior, when he was a Division I-AA All-American. Hobart played a season in the USFL with Jacksonville in 1984 and several in the CFL.

Junior linebacker Sam Merriman from Tucson[4] was selected in the seventh round (177th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. A four-year starter for the Vandals, he played five seasons with Seattle, primarily on special teams.[5][6][7] A serious knee injury in a 1988 preseason game ended his playing career.[8][9][10]

Fallen teammateEdit

At the close of the 1981 spring semester, Vandal wide receiver Joe Keogh, age 20, was killed in a mid-morning automobile accident. En route to Seattle on Saturday, May 16, he was one of four occupants in a vehicle westbound on Interstate 90, west of Ellensburg. The driver, a family friend, lost control and veered off the road and the car ended on its side. Keogh, a 1979 graduate of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane,[11] was the only fatality.[12][13]

Keogh's Vandal teammates wore his number 4 on the right side of their helmets during the 1981 season.[14][15] It was the second death for the football team in less than ten months: prior to his senior season, standout running back Glen White had died in August 1980 after a brief battle with aplastic anemia.[16]


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1981 Idaho Vandals football team roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Class
RB 3 Davis, RussellRussell Davis Sr
FL 7 Klein, JackJack Klein Sr
QB 9 Hobart, KenKen Hobart So
QB 11 Vigil, MarkMark Vigil So
QB 16 Espinoza, CarmenCarmen Espinoza
QB, RB 30 Jeranko, DaveDave Jeranko Sr
RB 34 Zimmerman, RandyRandy Zimmerman
RB 35 Jones, WallyWally Jones Jr
RB 33 Idler, TerryTerry Idler Jr
RB 45 Payne, TimTim Payne Jr
LG 56 Sua, KimaKima Sua Jr
RG 62 Seman, SteveSteve Seman Jr
LT 63 Frohnen, DaveDave Frohnen Jr
C 64 Wartella, BobBob Wartella Jr
LG 72 Cotta, TonyTony Cotta Sr
RT 74 Fery, BruceBruce Fery Sr
LT 76 Diehl, GregGreg Diehl Jr
TE Coombs, TomTom Coombs Sr
TE 87 Vestman, KurtKurt Vestman So
WR 88 Wallace, VicVic Wallace Jr
WR Johnson, CurtisCurtis Johnson Jr
Pos. # Name Class
CB 2 Loveall, CalvinCalvin Loveall Fr
CB 22 Keough, MikeMike Keough Sr
SS 25 Miller, KellyKelly Miller Sr
CB 41 Jennings, GregGreg Jennings Sr
FS 42 Bailey, BoyceBoyce Bailey So
CB 43 Wilcox, HowardHoward Wilcox Jr
DE 44 Moreno, FrankFrank Moreno So
NG 47 Lewis, DarbyDarby Lewis So
LB 52 Merriman, SamSam Merriman Jr
LB 57 White, LarryLarry White So
DE Hayes, JayJay Hayes Sr
DT Saso, DanDan Saso Sr
NG 79 Griffin, PaulPaul Griffin Jr
DT 85 Fortner, JohnJohn Fortner Jr
DE 90 Williamson, LloydLloyd Williamson So
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
KR 2 Loveall, CalvinCalvin Loveall Fr
PK, P 6 O'Brien, PetePete O'Brien Sr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches
  • Bill Tripp (OC)
  • Leland Kendall (DC)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Cruz Roja.svg Injured
  • Redshirt.svg Redshirt


No Vandals made the first team; second team selections included quarterback Ken Hobart, wide receiver Jack Klein, and linebackers Sam Merriman and Jay Hayes.[8][9][10] Honorable mention were tackle Bruce Fery, guard Steve Seman, defensive linemen John Fortner and Dan Saso, and safety Kelly Miller.[9][10] Despite leading the conference with over 111 yards rushing per game, running back Russell Davis was overlooked.[9]

NFL DraftEdit

Two Vandal seniors were selected in the 1982 NFL Draft,[11][12][13] which lasted twelve rounds (334 selections).

Player Position Round Overall Franchise
Tom Coombs TE 7th 181 New York Jets
Russell Davis RB 11th 305 Cincinnati Bengals


  1. "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 5B. September 5, 1981.
  2. "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 3B. September 26, 1981.
  3. "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 5C. October 10, 1981.
  4. "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 3C. October 31, 1981.
  5. "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 1C. November 21, 1981.
  6. Missildine, Harry (November 21, 1981). "Davitch's last Idaho hurrah". Spokesman-Review ((Spokane, Washington)): p. 17.
  7. Stewart, Chuck (November 20, 1981). "Memories". Spokane Daily Chronicle ((Washington)): p. 18.
  8. "Former I.E. stars on Big Sky team". Spokane Daily Chronicle ((Washington)): p. 18. December 1, 1981.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Idaho's Davis overlooked". Lewiston Morning Tribune. staff and wire reports ((Idaho)): p. 1B. December 2, 1981.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Idaho not ignored on defense". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press ((Idaho)): p. 3B. December 3, 1981.
  11. "NFL teams grab best local talent". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press ((Spokane, Washington)): p. 27. April 29, 1981.
  12. "Four Cougars, two Vandals picked". Spokane Chronicle ((Washington)): p. 35. April 29, 1982.
  13. "NFL teams add Idaho players in late rounds". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 1C. April 29, 1982.

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