MOSCOW, Idaho – Paul Petrino stood in the same spot Friday for Idaho’s preseason Media Day event that he did on Dec. 3 when he was introduced as Vandals football coach.
This time, though, Petrino could look behind himself in the expansive Kibbie Dome and see a gleaming new video board that dwarfs the old screen.
With the board, and with his team earlier Friday during Idaho’s mock game, he liked what he saw.
“You look up at the board and I thought I was in Dallas Cowboys Stadium,” Petrino said from the Litehouse Center, which houses suites and UI’s club room. “That is a beautiful board, isn’t it? That is unbelievable.”
The Vandals unveiled their new 30-by-50-foot video board – not quite in the same ballpark as the Cowboys’ mega board – during a 90-minute mock game. The dressed-up scrimmage featured game scenarios and the first-team offense and defense going exclusively against backups.
As he was last week, redshirt freshman Chad Chalich was crisp and efficient. He went 17 of 20 for 325 yards and five touchdowns – nearly matching his 19-of-20 day in the second scrimmage.
Petrino has all but said Chalich, a Coeur d’Alene native, will start a week from today at North Texas in the season opener, though the coach won’t make a formal announcement.
Yet he took a firmer stance on true freshman running back Richard Montgomery, who has taken the most reps in fall camp and has a “99.5 percent chance” to start (perhaps alongside junior Jerrel Brown in a two-back offense) and be the Vandals’ kick returner, Petrino said.
Montgomery showed elite speed during a 112-yard rushing effort on just seven carries.
“He’s worked too hard,” Petrino said. “He’s had too good of a camp (not to start).”
With the Vandals about to embark on one year as an FBS independent before joining the Sun Belt, they held their own Media Day after the mock game. To kick it off, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear told reporters that the Vandals finally have stability after an unsettling year of realignment.
And he credited Petrino for bringing discipline to the football program and resonating with the community and boosters.
“The past year it seems like all we did was react to everything, and it’s tough to get better when you’re constantly reacting to conference changes and everything going on,” Spear said.
With the $1.15 million video board project complete, Spear’s top priority is to build an events center north of the Dome for basketball, volleyball and general university use. He also would like to expand the seating in the Dome (currently it holds 16,000 fans) by lowering the field, pushing out the translucent east and west end walls and adding seats to the corners of the Litehouse Center and new press box.
Altogether, Spear said an extra 9,000 to 10,000 seats could be added.
“But we have to sell it out first,” he said. “I have to have that leverage to go add seats.”
Spear said the enhanced atmosphere in the Kibbie Dome and how UI plays under Petrino will generate more interest and bigger crowds.