University President Duane Nellis and athletic director Rob Spear met with media members Friday afternoon after the State Board of Education vote. The actual announcement for “exploring” independence is not a surprise to anybody, it’s been anticipated for the last month now. But it is very refreshing to hear the school’s administration actually come out and say it.
It’s also refreshing to see that Spear seemingly has the pieces in place to complete a two-year independent schedule that will allow Idaho to abide by the NCAA rules required to maintain Division-I Football Subdivision status (mainly, five home games, only one against an FCS opponent).
Spear said that within the next three weeks the school hopes to have both the schedule finalized as well as have a definitive decision on whether their olympic sports will reside in the Big Sky or the Western Athletic Conference.
The three biggest things to come out of Spear’s and Nellis’ comments were that:
- Spear seems like he has a full 12 game schedule nearly lined up, but wasn’t able to announce the schools due not having the contracts signed. It’s why he needed SBOE approval. Spear said that they have five games under contract right now (only four are public at the moment), have three pending contracts, were negotiating two and had an “understanding” with New Mexico State on a home and home during the 2013 season (as in, would play twice in that year alone).
- Idaho has not withdrawn from the Western Athletic Conference yet, nor do they have the explicit intent to as of this moment and time. More on that below.
- Spear said that there were preliminary discussions with the Idaho Potato Bowl on a bowl affiliation during independence.
Nellis said that Idaho still remains in frequent conversation with the WAC, something that interim WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd confirmed in a separate call with Vandal Nation afterwards. Hurd said that the WAC board of directors will have a conference call next week and that Nellis and Idaho will be a part of that.
Hurd not only understands, but agrees with Idaho’s three week timeline on making an olympic sport decision. “Everybody has to be able to move on,” he said.
The WAC’s most likely targets for expansion include Great West schools such as Utah Valley, South Dakota, Cal State-Bakersfield and Texas Pan-American. If Idaho remains in the WAC then four additional schools should save the conference as an olympic sport conference.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Idaho ultimately saying no to the Big Sky for their non-football sports. The decreased travel costs and regional rivalries is convincing enough.
We’ll have more on the 2013 football schedule and Idaho’s decision between the WAC and Big Sky when it comes out.
Here is Idaho’s 2013 schedule as it stands now:
Aug. 31: At Ole Miss
Sep. 07: at Wyoming
Sep. 14: vs. Northern Illinois
Sep. 21: At Washington State
Here is our story from earlier on the actual SBOE vote.
It’s official. The University of Idaho, on a 5-1 vote from the State Board of Education, received permission Friday to pursue it’s ultimate goal of independence. In addition, the board granted UI permission to explore the possibility of moving to the Big Sky in all sports, if going Independent falls through.
However, Spear stated he was confident that Idaho would be able to schedule a full slate of opponents as an Independent Football Sub-Division program. This isn’t to say that Spear and Idaho won’t set the Big Sky option aside. Idaho has planned a move to the BSC in Olympic sports but Spear expressed his appreciation to the board, as he will continue discussions with the conference from a football perspective.
“@Rob_Spear: Thank you Idaho SBOE for supporting our motion to explore football independence and allowing us flexibility in our discussions with the BS” Spear tweeted following the decision.
State Board President Kenneth Edmunds was the only member to vote against the move. Edmunds stated that he would like to see Idaho return to the board if they opt to join the Big Sky as a FCS football program.