President Nellis, AD Rob Spear speak on SBOE vote for independence/Big Sky

17 Aug

Update (8/17/12):

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.

Who’s got some carpet cleaner for that?

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:

  1. 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).
  2. Idaho has not withdrawn from the Western Athletic Conference yet, nor do they have the explicit intent to as of this moment and time.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.
  3. 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.

4 Responses to “President Nellis, AD Rob Spear speak on SBOE vote for independence/Big Sky”

  1. Kyle August 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Big time good news. The fact that the only person who said no said it because they wanted Idaho to return to talk it over some more says volumes… the SBOE wants the Vandals in FBS.

  2. Stephen T Conklin August 18, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    It is hard to compete in major college football when money talks? There is a big division between the have’s and have not’s in college sports. There are many variables that determine successful major college sports programs, and unfortunately, Idaho is behind the eight ball in many areas. Idaho is a great educational institution, but it is far distance from being a contender in big time college sports like football.
    The big variables to a successful big time college football program would be money or investments, facilities, university location, attracting top level athletes and exposure.
    This year the Vandals will play LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La. There is a big reason why LSU Tigers is a premier college football program? LSU plays in the SEC the conference that has claimed the last six national champions in football. The LSU Tigers has a football revenue that we Idaho Vandals can only dream about. Les Miles makes over 5 million dollars a year coaching the LSU Tigers, and that is probably more than what all the athletic coaches salaries at the University of Idaho accumulated? There is a big difference in the size and atmosphere of playing in 92,542 seat Tiger Stadium on Saturday night compared to the 18,000 seat Kibbie Dome. The LSU campus is located in Baton Rouge, La the state capital of Louisiana, which is larger and more active city compared to Moscow, Idaho. Most of the recent past national champions are located in cities that are nice size with many attractions for young people. There is a big difference between a small town like Moscow, Idaho compared to Baton Rouge, La or Tuscaloosa, Al. Winning football programs attract ratings and exposure in the media. The Tigers are always on TV playing in some major game at least 3 or 4 times alone in the regular season. Idaho football is very rarely on national TV. When a program has national media exposure, it generates money for the program, and interest in the 4 and 5 star football recruits. LSU is always contending every year for the SEC and National Championship. A winning big time program attracts top flight athletes. In the history of the Idaho Vandal football program there were only 2 NFL first round draft choices. 1967, Ray McDonald being selected in the 1st round by the Redskins, and 2010 Mike Iupati being selected first by the 49ers. In the 2012 NFL Draft alone, LSU had 5 men drafted and two were in the first round. So clearly, LSU has a great edge in attracting and developing top flight football talent compared to the Idaho Vandals.
    Idaho again is great educational institution, but it is far from being part of the big boy money table that is major college football.

  3. sportsisfun August 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    @Kyle…I hope you are correct. And, I hope this window of time provides Idaho the opportunity to be successful (we don’t have to be measure success by wins and losses.) and position the UI to

  4. sportsisfun August 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Not sure what happened to shut down my thought in the middle of the sentence…coulda been the wireless connection…oh well.

    At any rate I think Rob Spear has a nice window from which to work. I just hope and pray all of the naysayers and people trying to throw him and Dr Nellis under the bus will all become marginalized so they’ll shut up. I think given the circumstances that both the President and the AD did a fine job manuevering through the process. Good JoB!

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