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Idaho State News

U of I, ISU Basketball Tradition Rekindled in Battle for King Spud

Jonathan Match, ISU Associate AD for Sports Information | Jerek Wolcott, Idaho Assistant AD for Brand Engagement and Digital Strategy

MOSCOW, Idaho —  The University of Idaho and Idaho State University basketball teams will face off for the right to display a revamped relic from Idaho athletics history.

King Spud, designed in 1962 by U of I’s Art Department to crown the more than 15-year rivalry between the two universities’ men’s basketball teams, mysteriously disappeared after the 1979 season. Repeated efforts to locate the trophy, a metallic crowned potato that appears to be winking, have failed. But 30 years later, the tradition is sprouting again.

Student governments at U of I and ISU teamed up in 2022 to rekindle the practice, using a replica model commissioned by the U of I Library.

The new trophy, 3-D printed in U of I’s Integrated Research and Innovation Center, was funded by the Associated Students of Idaho State University and the Associated Students of the University of Idaho. Student leaders hope the trophy’s reincarnation will strengthen the rivalry and school spirit.

“We are excited about the restoration of the King Spud trophy and what it means to both the Vandals and Bengals,” said Terry Gawlik, Idaho athletic director. “The passion from both student body leaderships is inspiring and we look forward to celebrating this new era of in-state rivalry with our students and fan bases.” 

King Spud will be awarded after back-to-back men’s and women’s basketball games between Idaho and Idaho State on Thursday, Feb. 23. The men’s game begins 7 p.m. Mountain time at ISU’s Reed Gym in Pocatello and the women’s game begins 7 p.m. Pacific time at the ICCU Arena in Moscow

“There is little an institution can do to spark enthusiasm that will be as powerful as an effort inspired and led by the students themselves,” said Pauline Thiros, athletic director at Idaho State. “That is why when Terry Gawlik and I heard about this concept, we were elated. I know we are both very proud of our students for their initiative to restore the legacy of King Spud, and excited to support what it will mean for all of our students and fans.” 

Beginning in the 2022-23 basketball season, U of I and ISU men’s and women’s basketball teams will compete annually for the trophy. The school with the most wins after their four matchups will earn the right to display King Spud on its campus until the next time the schools play basketball. In the case of a tie, King Spud will go to the school with the highest point differential.

The U of I Library planted the seeds for King Spud’s reemergence, collaborating in 2021 with College of Art and Architecture faculty to create a 3-D model based on photos of the original. The original King Spud was designed by U of I professor and artist Alfred Dunn. Associate Professor of Art and Design Casey Doyle sculpted the replica.

“It seemed unlikely that we will ever actually find the original King Spud. That seems to be lost to the ages. The next best thing to tap into this piece of history seemed to be to do something big — let’s make a new one,” said U of I Library Dean Ben Hunter, who initiated the replica efforts.

A ceramic replica King Spud is on display in the U of I Library’s first floor.

King Spud featured in the 1964 Gem of the Mountains yearbook
The new King Spud replica poses at the Idaho State Capitol.

King Spud with a University of Idaho basketball team in the 1960s.
King Spud in the 1966 Gem of the Mountains yearbook.