While the eyes of the rest of the country this month may be on the trophies to be awarded NCAA basketball’s champions, the University of Idaho community knows the ultimate basketball trophy lives right here in Moscow.

King Spud, the most handsome trophy in sports, was commissioned in 1962 by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce to drum up excitement about the annual contest between the men’s basketball teams of UI and Idaho State University. In the 960s and 1970s, Idaho would take King Spud home seven times, while Idaho State only won five of the contests. The original King Spud was last awarded in 1979, when the Bengals surrendered it to the Vandals. ISU coach Lynn Archibald, clearly speaking from a place of heartbreak, said: “The trophy should go to the losing team, not the winning one. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”

The original trophy was designed by UI art professor Alfred Dunn, with a brass crown, silver-plated potato and a wooden base. The three elements of the trophy supposedly represent the three principal industries of Idaho at that time — potatoes, mining and lumbering. History has forgotten who actually constructed that first trophy. It appeared in the 1963 Gem of the Mountains yearbook with little fanfare though it often was mentioned in coverage of the annual series in early years.

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