The tradition started around eight years ago. The Idaho State football team was in the midst of another losing season, one of many during the era, but one bright spot stood out in the Bengal’s final home game of the season. That bright spot was a dog named Bristol.
After the opening kickoff was boosted down the field, the border collie, decked out in Idaho State apparel, raced out onto the field, gathered the tee and raced back to the Idaho State sideline.
“He made zero mistakes and he was instantaneously a crowd hit,” said Bristol’s owner and Idaho State University professor Caroline Faure.
After Bristol successfully fetched tees at Highland High school freshman, JV and varsity games, Faure got the okay from athletic director Jeff Tingey for Bristol to begin fetching tees at Idaho State games. But as he got older, his times began to dip and a blown ACL ignited a youth movement.
Last season, Faure began to train Pokie, a younger, more nimble border collie that has yet to fully grasp the mental side of the game.
“One of the interesting things about Bristol is he truly understood the game of football,” Faure said. “He watches every single play and know exact what is happening. He sees that touchdown about to happen and he starts cheering and barking loudly.”
Faure recalls a 2015 game against Montana where pass interference was called in the corner of the end zone where Bristol was. Unhappy by the touchdown-saving pass interference, Bristol began barking at the Montana secondary player.
“Bristol got right over that Montana player and just started barking at him,” Faure said. “He knows who the Bengals are and who the opponents are.”
Faure said that Bristol was a natural and it took no more than a couple minutes to train him. Pokie was also a quick learner, but she couldn’t go to the bathroom on command like Bristol could.
“That’s really important when you put a dog inside on a football field,” Faure said. “The last thing I want to happen is for her to do her business out in the middle of the field when she is getting a tee.”
Now, with a year of training under her belt, Pokie is set for her first career start on Saturday against Cal Poly while Bristol has been moved to the backup role.
“He doesn’t like it, but we have kind of moved him to second string,” Faure said. “What we are going to see against Cal Poly is Pokie starting the game and when we get a big lead at the end of the game, I’ll throw Bristol out there.”
The dogs were such a sensation that Faure got a call from Boise State asking that Bristol share time between Boise State and Idaho State games. Boise State had its own tee-fetching dogs, but according to Faure, they were not getting the job done, something that proved problematic with the television contracts.
“They would run off the field, they wouldn’t come back, they would have to chase the dog around the field or the dog would jump the fence or would have to lure the dog with a hotdog,” Faure explained. “It was getting to be a distraction. With the television contracts, it was getting to be impossible for them to run the dog out on and off the field in 22 seconds.”
Faure said she had worked out an agreement with Boise State where she would miss one Boise State game and one Idaho State game but she retracted from that agreement when Boise State came back a few weeks before the season started, asking Faure to run Bristol for only Boise State games.
“That’s when I told them that we weren’t interested,” she said. “Bristol is a Bengal dog through-and-through and so am I. I am all about the Bengals.”
Instead, Boise State found their own dog named Cowboy Khloe, a black lab who has since gone viral.
“Sadly, Boise State did it before Idaho State did it,” Faure said. “I don’t think it is a matter of who did it first, it is a matter of who did it best and certainly, Bristol and Pokie do it best.”
Neither school invented the tee-fetching dog, Faure got the idea from watching the New Orleans Saints in the 1970s who also had a tee-fetching dog.
“It’s a fun thing for both schools,” Faure said, adding that the tradition has become an Idaho tradition rather than a Boise State or Idaho State tradition. “It is kind of an Idaho thing. I would be happy if UofI got a dog.”
Nevertheless, Faure retains that the Idaho State tee dogs are the best in the country and emailed a list of 100 supporting reasons to The Bengal to back up her claim.
Number 19 on the list sited that the dogs are better looking than ESPN Kirk Herbstreit.
Others cited that Boise wasn’t a state and that former Chicago Bears all-pro linebacker Brian Urlacher likes them on Facebook and Instagram.
“And in real life,” Faure wrote. “He invites them over to go swimming at his house.
Other reasons were that the “chicks dig ‘em,” and even the Big Sky officials like them.
The dogs have become a part of gameday in Pocatello.
Their game day ritual begins with a game day bath, followed by a pregame meal courtesy of the Idaho State sports information office. Prior to the game, the dogs pose outside for Bengal Fest for around 50 pictures, some of which are taken with fans of opposing teams in jerseys that have their names imprinted on the back.
Once they have received the proper tape jobs by medical staff, it’s go time.
But the dogs have been ready for this moment because Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie expected both Bristol and Pokie to attend preseason practices and scrimmages because they, “needed to be game ready.”
100 Reasons why the Idaho State University football tee dogs are the absolute best in the country:
- They are faster.
- They are smarter.
- Rep’n Idaho State University, not some knock off.
- Took (literally) two minutes to train. Not months or years like the other dogs.
- Border Collies. ‘nuff said.
- They even have their likenesses on t-shirts that fans wear.
- They can actually go outside and pee in their jerseys. It’s never a problem.
- They are a first name basis with the athletic director.
- They wear custom made jerseys (Bristol is #1; Pokie is #2). Even have the Big Sky Conference patch on them.
- They are on a first name basis with the President of the University.
- They pee – and poop – before the game and at halftime outside and ON COMMAND. That means there’s not much risk of an accident out on the field.
- Fan photos before the game. Lots of them.
- Coach Phen expects them to attend preseason practices and scrimmages. He says they need that game-ready practice, too.
- Boise is not a state.
- They have nice ride (custom wrapped Polaris side by side).
- Can actually herd cats – if you need them to.
- Get riled up when PA announcer says their name.
- The Big Sky Conference officials even like ‘em.
- Even better looking than Kirk Herbstreit.
- There are two of them. They look like twins.
- Made fetching the tee trendy.
- Never distracted by treats when on the job.
- Buds with Benny (although Pokie does not like Benny getting too chummy).
- Known to support local high schools, too. Equal opportunity tee dogs.
- Went from little league football to D-1 in FOUR DAYS.
- Basketball? No problem.
- See the touchdowns as they are about to happen. Cheer before the crowd does.
- It’s “TEE TIME!”
- They are sports junkies. They watch ESPN all day when mom and dad are gone.
- Can ride snowmobiles, wake surf, and play a mean game of Frisbee.
- They understand the game of football. Just like Lombardi did.
- Team’s kickers are their best friends. Share pre-game bonding moments each week.
- Prefer to work on the football fields that are naturally colored: green.
- Not named after a low end department store.
- Not named according to the size of their legs, either.
- Have more than 70 toys. Know them all by name. Can retrieve any of them if mom asks.
- Pocono (“Pokie”) named after the greatest city in Idaho.
- Known to talk smack to opposing players. A lot.
- Bristol’s natural parents were champion herders. Pokie was a rescue.
- Adopted parents are both Bengal alum.
- They got more swag than Snoop Dogg.
- More focused on the job.
- Field Goal: Eyes on the kicker… follow the ball… through the uprights… down to the officials… hands up? It’s good! “BARK, BARKBARK BARK” (“Growl, Bengals Growl…”)
- Have their own Facebook page with 1500 followers – and growing.
- Kids love ‘em.
- Serve the community. Have done numerous public appearances at schools and such.
- Earned an ISU letterman’s jacket after their first year on the job.
- Known to watch film after games so they can evaluate themselves and get better.
- They don’t think the football tee is a bird.
- Bristol able to return to play after ACL surgery in only 5 months.
- Can’t judge them by the size of their stadium or by the size of their town.
- Weber State fans think they are pretty cool, too.
- Best defenders on the soccer field you’ll ever see.
- The SID gives them a pre-game meal before every game and makes sure there is plenty of water for them, too.
- NOT color blind.
- People pay big money at the Bengal Auction just to spend a day with them at a game.
- Mom likes them best.
- Hate it when someone stands in front of them and obstructs their view of the game.
- Can do on-side kick retrievals without an issue.
- Angry when the other teams score.
- Much more photogenic.
- Pretty much cannot go anywhere in town without being recognized.
- Don’t tear up the tee.
- Annoyed by TV time outs.
- Their enthusiasm is contagious to other football team members.
- Don’t need a hot dog to come back to.
- Home is the end zone.
- Don’t need a whistle to guide them to the tee.
- Bristol named after ESPN headquarters – thus proving sports has been the focus his entire life.
- Devoted to the team. Go to every home game and stay through the very last play. Always.
- Baths on game day.
- Athletic trainers spat their ankles, too. Just like the other players.
- Play in indoor stadium. Weather is never a factor.
- Even the President of the University’s wife follows them on Facebook.
- They are the only Bengals to have their names on back of their jerseys.
- Chicks dig ‘em (cheerleaders, dancers, sorority girls, girls in the marching band….)
- Take ice baths after games.
- Sing the Bengal fight song. Every. Time. We. Score.
- Again, Boise is not a state.
- Get invites to pretty much every tailgate party at Bengal Fest.
- Even University of Montana fans want pictures with them pre-game.
- Take their jobs seriously. None of this playing around crap. It’s all business.
- Train in the offseason by running and swimming pretty much every day.
- Always stand for the national anthem.
- Can differentiate between a good play for ISU and a good play for the other team.
- Bristol has been on the job 8 years. Eight. Those other dogs: Two… and Five.
- NASCAR fans (Bristol & Pocono… get it?).
- Will go anywhere, anytime, and race against anyone. Bring it!
- Vince Lombardi… reincarnated.
- They are cardiovascularly fit. Regularly retrieve at elevation (4462’) without any problems.
- It has been scientifically proven: Everyone likes to root for an underdog.
- Even Boise State knows they are better. They tried to steal them 5 years ago. Didn’t work.
- Not confused by team’s rotating color schemes. Wear Orange. And Black.
- Bowl eligible.
- Even NFL great Brian Urlacher “likes” them on Facebook. And on Instagram. And in real life. He invites them over to go swimming at his house.
- The football does not distract them. It’s all about the tee.
- Remember Bristol’s Buddy Tyson? He beat cancer. And that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.
- Singlets are for wrestlers. Not football players.
- Bristol and Pokie are simply better football tee-fetching dogs.