Like almost all Idaho alumni and fans, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is not expected to be in Chapel Hill on Saturday to watch her Vandals play a first-ever football game in North Carolina.
“There aren’t very many of us anywhere, much less in North Carolina,” said U.S. Marine captain and Raleigh resident Matthew Erickson.
A 2005 graduate of the school located in Moscow, Idaho, Erickson would like to be in Chapel Hill but might have duty priorities. Either way, his heart will be there for one of the most far-flung games of the college season.
“I was totally surprised when I found out we had a game in North Carolina,” said Erickson, who grew up near Boise. “I told my wife that if we get there, we’ll probably be the only two people in the stadium pulling for Idaho.”
Actually there could wind up being 200 or so Vandal faithful in Kenan, according to alumni events specialist Sandy Larsen. Considering the geographic mismatch, 200 would be an impressive gathering.
“We’re having a fans reception Saturday (noon until 3 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Sheraton) and we’ve had some response, so I’m optimistic we’ll have a few fans there to make some noise for the Vandals,” Larsen said.
A member of the Western Athletic Conference, Idaho has launched an aggressive non-league schedule that’s a netted a good deal of money if not very many wins.
The Vandals (0-4) picked up $925,000 for a trip to LSU on Sept. 15 (69-14 loss) and will pocket $800,000 for the game Saturday, according to athletic director Rob Spear. Spear said that after expenses, the athletic department should clear approximately $630,000 for this game.
Future trips to Mississippi, Florida and Auburn will produce roughly $2.8 million.
Realignment in the WAC during the past few years has put a scheduling strain on several teams outside the automatic qualifying conferences.
Spear sent out inquiries to several other schools and conferences about games, and UNC responded.
How did game with UNC come about?
“There is a financial component, but it also gives us the opportunity to engage our alums. Our student-athletes like the opportunity to play against BCS competition,” Spear said.
There’s not a second game scheduled, but the Vandals may strike a deal with Florida State for a game in 2015.