|2012 Hall of Fame - Dick Mooney|
To hear Dick Mooney recount his days as an athlete at the University of Idaho, you’d be left with the impression that he was an average guy with average talent.
Then you take a look at his achievements: Player on 1963 Pan Am Games Silver Medal baseball team, Senior Athlete of the Year, Hec Edmundson Most Inspirational Football Player, Terry Bissel Award winner, national kickoff return leader, two-time all-Pacific Coast Conference selection and multi-sport athlete. Then you realize he’s the humble man he presents himself to be with a legacy of success as a student, student-athlete, rancher and businessman. Perhaps, above all, he’s a tremendously loyal supporter of the Vandals and the University of Idaho.
In a letter to nominate Mooney, Dale James had this to say:
“Dick’s qualifications are without question – he was a Vandal athlete and scholar, and an outstanding contributor to the University of Idaho as an alumnus. He has given his life to the best interest of the University – as a student, athlete and Vandal Booster.”
Mooney’s athletic career began when he played on the first Little League team in his native Sacramento, Calif. That led to a lifelong love of baseball, a trip to the 1963 Pan Am Games as well as being chosen as a member of the Sacramento Bee newspaper’s Team of the 50s and to its top 100 players list.
It wasn’t until he was a freshman in high school that football became a part of his life. He knew when he was looking for a university, he wanted to go to a school with a strong agricultural college. For a time, his goal was to attend Oregon State. Then along came Idaho coach Skip Staley, who was able to sell the Vandals not only to Mooney but to his parents.
“My dad influenced me,” Mooney said. “It was a good decision; a really good decision.”
At the time, Idaho played in the Northern Division of the Pacific Coast Conference. It was a rugged league but an exciting one for the Vandals. After spending fall on the football field, Mooney headed to the baseball diamond where he excelled much as he did as a youngster growing up in Sacramento. His playing ability and his consistency at the play caught the attention of the coaches putting together the team that would compete in the 1963 Pan Am Games at Sao Paulo, Brazil.
He was in a bit of a quandary, though. He was intent on graduating and was concerned he would miss too much class to earn his degree on time.
“I thought, ‘This is my fifth year. I want to graduate,’ ” Mooney remembered. “It went up to Dr. (Donald) Theophilus’ office. I explained it to him. He always had this little frown on his face and he said, ‘You just go. You represent the University of Idaho and the State of Idaho well. Let me worry about you graduating.’
“It was great to be at a school where you could go and see the president.”
Theophilus had a strong sense of affection for the Mooney family. Both of Dick’s parents were awarded honorary degrees for their support of the University. His family became so enamored with Idaho that, after passing through Weiser on their many trips from Sacramento and Moscow, they sold their California ranch and re-settled in the southern Idaho farming community.
As much as Mooney remembers his athletic days with fondness, he recalls his education with appreciation.
“I had great professors,” Mooney said. “I had a great experience here. Like I tell my kids, I had so much fun in Moscow when I was in school here when I come out of Lewiston and come over the hill into Moscow, the hair on the back of my head starts to stand up.
“It was a great experience. I loved every minute of it.”
By Becky Paull, Vandal Athletics Media Relations