By Brian Murphy
The Sun Belt Conference closed the door on a potential landing spot for the University of Idaho's football program or athletic department Wednesday.
The league announced the addition of Texas-Arlington — which was scheduled to join the WAC in 2013 — for the 2013 season and said it is content with future makeup. The Sun Belt will have 10 football-playing members and two non-football schools for the 2013-14 season. The league will divide into six-team divisions for basketball and volleyball.
The Sun Belt will not hold a football championship game with just 10 football-playing members.
"We are not pursuing additional members at this time. To squelch the speculation of a football championship game, it is not high on our radar screen and priority list," Commissioner Karl Benson said. "... We wanted to be fair (to the schools that have contacted us). At this juncture, the Sun Belt shouldn't be considered a landing spot whether it's an FCS member or an existing FBS member."
Benson, the former commissioner of the WAC, said he spoke with Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear about the "direction the Sun Belt was headed." Benson said the Sun Belt's announcement "allows both Idaho and New Mexico State to know the direction the Sun Belt is headed. Personally, I wish the best for the University of Idaho and New Mexico State."
Spear said the school would consider four options for its athletic department with the WAC down to just two football-playing members (Idaho, New Mexico State) in 2013.
The four options:
• An all-sport membership in a Football Bowl Subdivision conference.
• A football membership in an FBS conference with other sports programs in another Division I conference.
• FBS football independence with other sports programs in a Division I conference.
• The feasibility and future of Football Championship Subdivision football (formerly Division I-AA).
Having been rejected by the Mountain West and now the Sun Belt, Idaho is running out of options for remaining in a Football Bowl Subdivision conference.
Spear declined comment Tuesday.
The WAC is down to five members for non-football sports in 2013: Idaho, New Mexico State, Boise State, Denver and Seattle. Boise State is exploring other options for its non-football programs, including the Big West, when it moves its football program to the Big East in 2013.
WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd told the Statesman on Wednesday that the league continues to explore every option available. The WAC's Board of Directors will meet June 11-12 in Denver.
"We've spent the last four to six weeks going through various options we think are viable for us and looking at those different possibilities," Hurd said. "We're trying to move forward. We're trying to survive as a viable conference and maintain an FBS-level entity with the WAC. We're going to exhaust every possible option out there."
Hurd said Boise State has been upfront with the conference.
"They would like to see the WAC survive and maintain as a viable home for its non-football sports. At the same time, Boise State has to look out for itself and explore all the options available," Hurd said.
• Colorado State Athletic Director Jack Graham said he was part of the Mountain West's recent efforts to keep Boise State in the league and that the league offered to distribute revenue based on success rather than equally so it could hold onto the Broncos.
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