HISTORY OF THE
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
It was early 1997, and the Big West Conference was
without a guaranteed bowl game for its football
champion. With Las Vegas having essentially become
a Western Athletic Conference city the year before with
the move of UNLV to the WAC, the bowl had elected to
follow suit and switch its affiliation from the Big West to the
Rebels’ new league to maintain local interest in the event.
Were there any volunteers to come to the aid of the Big West?
Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier raised his hand. What
about creating a unique bowl game at a cold-weather site, one that had
embraced football at all levels for decades? The idea germinated with
the support of Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell, and on June
12, 1997, the new bowl received official certification from the NCAA.
The event would be named the Humanitarian Bowl in a
partnership with Boise’s World Sports Humanitarian Hall of
Fame. The initial agreement paired the Big West champion with
a representative from Conference USA. In a day of fewer bowls
and more flexible selection processes, there was competition for the
By: Tom Scott
C-USA berth. Cincinnati, with a promise of healthy
ticket sales and a future visit to Boise State by its
nationally-ranked men’s basketball team, earned
the bid opposite Utah State.
The inaugural Humanitarian Bowl was played on
December 29, 1997, in front of 16,289 fans on Bronco
Stadium’s blue turf. It was considered a good crowd
at the time, given USU coach John L. Smith’s lameduck
status. Smith was on his way to Louisville,
and the Aggies’ fan base was less than motivated.
Cincinnati was inspired, though, and the Bearcats
took home a 35-19 victory.
The 1998 Humanitarian Bowl pitted Idaho against Southern
Miss and provided a glimpse into the bowl’s high-scoring future.
The Vandals and Golden Eagles put on an offensive show before
Idaho prevailed, 42-35. With a title sponsor aboard for the first
time, Boise State made its first-ever bowl game in the 1999 Crucial.
com Humanitarian Bowl, another back-and-forth affair that
saw the Broncos squeeze out a 34-31 win over the John L. Smithcoached
In 2000, the final season of Big West football, the Crucial.com
DECEMBER 21, 2018 | FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL 93