|1981 [[Script error]]|
|Conference||Big Sky Conference|
|1981 record||3–8 (0–7 Big Sky)|
|Head coach||Jerry Davitch (4th season)|
|Offensive coordinator||Bill Tripp (4th season)|
|Defensive coordinator||Leland Kendall|
|Home stadium||Kibbie Dome|
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, with high expectations to improve on the previous year's 6–5 record. 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. 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.
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 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. A serious knee injury in a 1988 preseason game ended his playing career.
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, was the only fatality.
Keogh's Vandal teammates wore his number 4 on the right side of their helmets during the 1981 season. 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.
|1981 Idaho Vandals football team roster|
| Special teams
No Vandals made the first team; second team selections included quarterback Ken Hobart, wide receiver Jack Klein, and linebackers Sam Merriman and Jay Hayes. Honorable mention were tackle Bruce Fery, guard Steve Seman, defensive linemen John Fortner and Dan Saso, and safety Kelly Miller. Despite leading the conference with over 111 yards rushing per game, running back Russell Davis was overlooked.
|Tom Coombs||TE||7th||181||New York Jets|
|Russell Davis||RB||11th||305||Cincinnati Bengals|
- ↑ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 5B. September 5, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=j7JeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4C8MAAAAIBAJ&pg=4783%2C2091578.
- ↑ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 3B. September 26, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=a8peAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jDIMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3224%2C4843258.
- ↑ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 5C. October 10, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ybZeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XzAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4615%2C4211665.
- ↑ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 3C. October 31, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=AINfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=sDAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4685%2C7116998.
- ↑ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 1C. November 21, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VqpfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=njIMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2540%2C2250212.
- ↑ Missildine, Harry (November 21, 1981). "Davitch's last Idaho hurrah". Spokesman-Review ((Spokane, Washington)): p. 17. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4FROAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eO4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=3388%2C2200670.
- ↑ Stewart, Chuck (November 20, 1981). "Memories". Spokane Daily Chronicle ((Washington)): p. 18. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VghMAAAAIBAJ&sjid=VPkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5431%2C1892258.
- ↑ "Former I.E. stars on Big Sky team". Spokane Daily Chronicle ((Washington)): p. 18. December 1, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=lkFYAAAAIBAJ&sjid=U_kDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5357%2C92202.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Idaho's Davis overlooked". Lewiston Morning Tribune. staff and wire reports ((Idaho)): p. 1B. December 2, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=g5xfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rDEMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2523%2C579157.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 "Idaho not ignored on defense". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press ((Idaho)): p. 3B. December 3, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=hJxfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rDEMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2678%2C1041684.
- ↑ "NFL teams grab best local talent". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press ((Spokane, Washington)): p. 27. April 29, 1981. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xPhLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ie4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4526%2C6419724.
- ↑ "Four Cougars, two Vandals picked". Spokane Chronicle ((Washington)): p. 35. April 29, 1982. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=iQNMAAAAIBAJ&sjid=W_kDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5708%2C3762477.
- ↑ "NFL teams add Idaho players in late rounds". Lewiston Morning Tribune ((Idaho)): p. 1C. April 29, 1982. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2steAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pjIMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3053%2C5670076.
- Gem of the Mountains: 1982 University of Idaho yearbook – 1981 football season
- Idaho Argonaut – student newspaper – 1981 editions