The future of University of Idaho football may be no more clearer today than it was last week. But Athletic Director Rob Spear assured Vandal Nation and other media members in a conference call today that the athletic department will continue their ongoing process to find the best possible situation for Vandal football and athletics as a whole with an “emphasis on maintaining our FBS status.”
“I have received a series of emails. People are concerned,” Spear said. “What I have told them is that we have been resilient; we will continue to be resilient. We are going to land on our feet. No matter the outcome, the University of Idaho is going to be fine.”
Idaho will need that resilience, since a resolution doesn’t seem likely to be coming any time soon.
By this time next year the Western Athletic Conferences will, in all likeliness, cease to exist as a football playing conference and Idaho is one of only two schools that still hasn’t found a home yet. Idaho made a concerted effort to join their peers in the new look Mountain West, but was ultimately shown the cold shoulder.
“The main reason (we weren’t extended an invitation) was our marketplace and our demographics…they emphasized we didn’t have enough televisions in our area,” Spear said. “We made the case that we have a great presence in the Northwest but the MWC did not think that that was enough.”
Now, the University of Idaho is left to pick up the pieces after getting shafted in this game conference re-alignment musical chairs.
“The next step is for us to do a lot of evaluation. There are a lot of moving parts here and it’s not done,” Spear said.
Spear laid out four different scenarios that could play out for the Idaho:
- Finding an FBS conference home for all sports.
- Placing football in a separate conference than the olympic sports. This would likely be the Sun Belt option. The problem would therein lie in finding the olympic sport home. Salvaging the WAC as a non-football conference could be a solution.
- Independence. That comes with its own can of worms of complications. Finding a bowl tie in, consistent scheduling partners and enough teams willing to come to Moscow become a huge challenge.
- FCS football and the Big Sky, only if it could lead a return back to the FBS. More on that a little later.
The ideal situation is, of course, to find a conference right now willing to house not only football, but all Vandal sports. But that probably went out the window with the Mountain West saying “No, thanks.” Which means the preferred situation would be to turn towards the Sun Belt and see what opportunities lie there in terms of being a football only member.
Spear wouldn’t be specific in terms of which conferences correlated to which scenarios, even going as far as saying there are “more options” than the Sun Belt, but again, didn’t clarify beyond that.
For the latter two scenarios Spear made sure to make one thing clear – Whatever path Idaho eventually chooses to go down, it will be with an eye towards the future as a member of big time college football, including the Big Sky option.
Spear believes that the conference re-alignment game will continue to heat up, and as the bigger conferences move to establish themselves with the best possible opportunities for television revenue, the reverberation will bounce down to the “second tier” conferences.
“There is high probability of overall restructuring in two years that can separate the big five conferences away from the rest of the FBS. If and when that happens we want the University of Idaho in those conversations,” he said. “There is interest across the country that if there is overall re structuring and the big five conferences go away there are a lot of schools that are going to want to be in that second tier, including the University of Idaho.”
It will be those shifts that Idaho will be counting on if they are going to salvage their future in major college football should a conference invite not come from the Sun Belt or Mountain West in the immediate future.
Making a move down to the Big Sky would only happen with the hope that the vision of the conference would be to incorporate itself in to the highest levels of college football once the dominoes fall with the major conference powers.
Should Idaho go independent it will be with a plan to jump on a conference invitation when the dominoes fall from the big time conferences. The most recent comparison to a program going independent to salvage it’s Division I FBS status would be Temple, which was ousted from the Big East in 2005 only to join the Mid-American Conference two years later.
Spear says there is no definitive time table towards making a decision on Idaho’s path but that discussions are “ongoing.”
“There are a lot of discussions that have to happen between now and the first of July. At this time because we are involved in various conversations with a lot of different people. We are going to do our evaluations and make sure we make the right decisions for the University of Idaho.”