Courtesy of Idaho
Athletic Media Relations
They are the members of the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame – a collection of student-athletes, coaches and administrators that spans more than 100 years of University of Idaho history. They are our legends, our heroes.
“The University of Idaho has a rich tradition and a celebrated history,” director of athletics Rob Spear said. “What has been missing, though, is a tribute to those whose athletic achievement is legend and upon whom our spirit has been built.
The Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame was instituted in the fall of 2007 and welcomed 102 charter members over two years.
View the complete list online.
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Memorial Gym: 1928-present
By Alexiss Turner
In 1956, when Weldon Wood ’60 wasn’t cleaning out the whirlpools in the University of Idaho football training rooms or refereeing intramural games, he was wrapping the ankles of future Vandal NFL success stories.
Assisting soon-to-be Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer and Detroit Lions linebacker Wayne Walker was all in a day’s work for the basketball recruit. At that time, being on the team meant free tuition and putting in a specified number of hours at jobs on campus.
Most of Wood’s jobs, not to mention six days of basketball practice, kept him busy at Memorial Gymnasium. Built in 1928, the multi-purpose indoor arena was campus’ ornate hub for sporting events, commencement, class registration and a host of other activities.
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One of Wood's professors once recalled taking a group of young children to the Memorial Gym for the first time. Because if its detailed exterior, they asked if the gym was a church.
"No," the professor said, "it's a place where people go to worship basketball."
Education and Entertainment
Basketball practice ran about three hours Monday through Saturday, and put Wood, a Phi Gamma Delta, back at the Fiji house around 7:30 p.m. At the end of the day, there was a dried-out dinner waiting for him in the oven. Then, it was on to studying and eventually falling asleep at his desk. The next day: Back to the gym for more.
Memorial Gym was built to commemorate service members of World War I. It was conceptualized by David C. Lange, then head of the UI architecture department.
A 1927 photo from The Argonaut shows the gym flying flags from grooves in the walls of its north- and east-facing walls, although these brackets are not currently used.
The detailed exterior of the Memorial Gym is contrasted by a 1950s addition to the west end and southeast exit. This addition, designed by Niccolls Building designer Victor Jones, opted for plain metal windows and a starker look. A west-end tower that was part of the original design was never constructed. The entire building also received a renovation in the 1980s.
Stained glass windows decorate the building throughout, but one of the most memorable exterior details are the crouching football-player gargoyles. About a dozen of these characters with chipped heads and missing footballs were recently removed and recast.
Glenn Potter ’60 taught two physical education classes each semester in the gym. He said most phys ed classes were taught in the Memorial Gym and were segregated by gender, although a required dance class was taught in the Women’s Gymnasium, now known as Art and Architecture South.
Potter also acted as assistant coach of the freshman and varsity basketball teams in 1959, when the team was part of the Pacific Coast Conference.
John Fitzgerald ’65 attended many basketball games during his time at UI. He said UI President Donald R. Theophilus always had a front-row seat to the games.
The men's basketball team moved to the Cowan Spectrum in the Kibbie Dome for competition in 1976. Women's basketball moved in early the 2000s. Both squads still occasionally use the facility.
Overcoming DifficultiesVery few events took precedence over basketball in the 2,500-seat arena, but the building did have many uses.
Before the UI Swim Center was constructed in 1970, students used a narrow pool on the west end of the Memorial Gym basement, next to the dirt-floor drill area used by military students.
Gary Green ’64 joined the UI swim team from 1962-64. The two-lane pool was used for everything – public swim, classes and meets – and there was always a line of swimmers waiting to use it next. A wall formed one side of the pool and a spectator area the other. Having no gutter on one side of the pool meant swimmers had to watch for waves.
“Swim practice entailed a lot of looking ahead to avoid bumping into a swimmer coming in the opposite direction,” he said. “We were supposed to swim on the right side of the lane, but neophytes like me had trouble swimming in a straight line.”
Green said the team at least had a home-field advantage. Teams that were accustomed to regulation pools had to deal with four lanes in the space of two-and-a-half.
“In the end, swimming at Idaho did wonders for my career as a mathematician,” he said. “I learned to work, to overcome difficulties and to appreciate the good things in my life, all because of a crowded little pool in the basement of the Memorial Gym.”
Today the UI Swim Center behind the Memorial Gym offers two 25-yard pools with an eight-lane competitive pool.
The Memorial Gym is currently home to a myriad of events and offices including the Women's Center, volleyball games, physical education classes, Army ROTC, ROTC shooting range, an aviation simulation lab and the Center for Ethics.