Bill Roberts reports Mike Rush never saw it coming.

When the State Board of Education, where Rush is executive director, unanimously voted to snip the word “flagship” from the University of Idaho’s mission statement a couple of weeks ago, he was surprised at the outrage from loyal Vandals.

“The board just didn’t feel like (the phrase) was necessary,” Rush said.

But in an era marked by longtime and occasionally bitter rivalry among the state’s universities, and with dwindling resources forcing schools to live with fewer dollars, the flagship flap has turned out to be bigger than the word itself.

The word flagship implies first, best, leading. Removing it left U of I leaders, faculty and students feeling slighted by the board that oversees Idaho’s universities, including its presidents.

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