Mike Kramer, the fourth-year head coach at Idaho State and a longtime staple in the Big Sky Conference, has spoken before on the malaise of the Bengals’ fanbase.
This season, Idaho State (6-3, 4-1 Big Sky) is challenging for a conference title late in the season, but things haven’t always been this way for the charter member of the conference.
“Fifty-one years of Big Sky play, Idaho State has about 46 years of God-forsaken terribleness,” said Kramer, who spent six seasons as the head coach at Eastern Washington from 1994-99 and the following seven years as the head coach at Montana State. “And so, I think our fans are still tip-toeing a little bit. ... Is there a collapse or are we going to be good for a long time?”
Any skepticism is well deserved.
The Bengals won the first Big Sky title in 1963. They also won an FCS title in 1981. They went to the playoffs again the next season but haven’t been back since.
Idaho State last tied for the title in the Big Sky championship with a conference mark of 5-2 in 2002, but the Bengals were passed over in the 16-team bracket in favor of fellow co-champs Montana and Montana State.
Other than that, Kramer is pretty much correct. Idaho State hasn’t had a coach with a winning record since the early 1980s.
Kramer himself had an overall record of 6-28 with just two conference victories coming into this season. He was 37-22 at Eastern Washington and 40-43 during his time with Montana State. Kramer led the Bobcats to three playoff berths, including a run to the quarterfinals in 2006. He’s taken his lumps with the Bengals, but it has been with the hope of building a genuine product people can grow to appreciate.
“I hope our fans realize this is something that’s going to last,” Kramer said, “but I have no idea what kind of crowd we’re going to have on Saturday given the fact that our last home game, again, we had a very small crowd that’s still trying to figure out are we for real or are we not? Because those previous coaching staffs have just destroyed the confidence of any fans we have.
“We’re still years away from establishing a fanbase that can be decisive in games like the fans that are at Montana or even at Montana State.”