Idaho to go independent in football, join Big Sky in other sports

By Brian Murphy

Idaho plans to play as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent and join the Big Sky Conference in other sports, pending Idaho State Board of Education approval Friday. The state board will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Friday to vote on Idaho's athletic future.

Idaho is the only agenda item and it is a "request for authorization for independent scheduling of football games and for the President to explore and accept an invitation to the Big Sky Athletic conference."

"We appreciate the State Board of Education’s consideration of our proposal for President M. Duane Nellis and Director of Athletics Rob Spear to explore what is best for the future of Vandal athletics, our student-athletes and our fans. Our priority continues to be to provide the best experience for our students, alumni and fans within a collegiate sports environment," the school said in a statement released Thursday.

The Vandals are currently members of the Western Athletic Conference. The league has experienced a number of defections in recent years, leaving it with just four members and two football-playing members — including Idaho.

Idaho told the state board about its plans during an executive session Wednesday. In its documents to the state board, Idaho cites the re-establishment of historic rivalries, more regional travel and reduced costs and loss of academic class time for student-athletes.

Idaho was a charter member of the Big Sky in 1963 and played in the league until 1996.

Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton told the Statesman on Wednesday that he would accept the Vandals under that arrangement.

"I would support that. It's not what we asked when we invited them," Fullerton said. "But I understand the concept."

Idaho's addition will give the league 12 all-sport members: Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State. The Big Sky sponsors 14 of Idaho's 16 sports (no men's golf and women's swimming and diving).

To make it work as a football independent, Idaho must schedule five home games, including four against FBS schools. One of the home games may be a neutral site game. According to NCAA rules, Idaho must play at least nine games to keep its FBS status and 60 percent of them must be against FBS schools.

The Vandals have just one home game currently scheduled for 2013 — against Northern Illinois. Idaho also has road games scheduled against Mississippi, Wyoming and Washington State.

"If we’re going to play independent football, a lot of those decisions have to be made in the next month to two months," Idaho President Duane Nellis told the Statesman on Saturday. "If it doesn’t look like we can secure a schedule for us at the FBS level, then we’re going to have to make other decisions. We’re being aggressive in looking at options there. We’ll see what happens."

Idaho is hopeful that by remaining as an FBS school, it can secure a conference affiliation within a few years. The Mountain West and Sun Belt — the two most likely conference destinations for Idaho — have said they are not considering expansion at this time.

There are just four FBS independents: Army, Navy, Notre Dame and BYU. Navy is scheduled to join the Big East in 2015. BYU moved from the Mountain West to independence in 2011.

"The BCS landscape is changing rapidly and I know a number of conferences are on hold right now to see how the selection committee revenue distribution is going to unfold in the next six-to-nine months," Nellis said. "I really believe we’re not at the end of this domino effect of conference changes."

In its impact statement to the state board, the school writes: "By scheduling football as an unaffiliated and independent FBS institution, the University retains the ability to react to conference changes should an opportunity appear with an FBS conference in the future."

Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said he believes independence will have to be a short-term solution for the Vandals.

"If we did it, it’d be definitely short-term. I don’t see us going beyond two years," Spear said.

After leaving the Big Sky in 1996, Idaho went to the Big West (1996-2000) in all sports, the Sun Belt (2001-2004) in football and the WAC (2005-present) in all sports.

2013 Football Schedule

Aug. 31 at Mississippi

Sept. 7 at Wyoming

Sept. 14 vs. Northern Illinois

Sept. 21 at Washington State

Bowl tie-in

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise has an agreement with the WAC through the 2013 game. WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd said last month that he does not see any way the league will be able to sponsor football in 2013, leaving the bowl game with an opening.

Executive Director Kevin McDonald told the Statesman on Thursday that he has spoken with Idaho about a possible agreement.

"There's been no commitment one way or the other. But there's definitely some interest on our part," McDonald said.

Idaho played in the game the last two times it was bowl eligible — 1998 and 2009.

"Tying to one team as an independent is always a little risky," McDonald said. "The issue with Idaho gets a little muddy because of their history of getting bowl eligible."

McDonald said the first preference is to align with another league.

ha ha ha

I-D-A-H-O, back to the Big Sky you will go!!!

Don't count on it

I doubt the Big Sky wants them back. The Big Sky actually has a reputation to maintain.


Finally we agree on something.

It's true that you can't think of anything else to type too?



You fry wants with that?

Have you always struggled

Have you always struggled with comprehension? Doug Fullerton is quoted, in the article that they want them and will accept them for their Olympic Sports.

Two Year Countdown Clock

Starts in two weeks.

Too much pride??

Why go independent when you consistently rank near the bottom in the FBS? Join the Big Sky already & be happy they'll have you.

Don't laugh too hard, Donkey-boy

We'll save a spot for you in the Big Sky after Pete leaves in a few years and your Big East mistake causes your FB program to collapse. It'll be nice to get you boys on the schedule again.

good one

Until then (never), enjoy getting whipped by new teams.... Eastern WA, Montana, Idaho State, Sac St

Too ridiculous

SOME people (particularly delusional Idaho Van-hole fans) are simply TOO STUPID to even bother with - other than just to LAUGH at them. LOL

Four home games

with FBS opponents in a 13K stadium? Maybe some of the low tier MAC teams, but better indeed hope that a conference opportunity opens fast.

Pure Comedy Gold!

What a stubborn bunch they are are. Too ignorant to see that the football team belongs in the Big Sky also. I would be shocked if they can convince 5 FBS schools to go play in that dump of a football stadium.

"I don't see us going beyond two years."

I don't see them going beyond one year - no way will they get the required number of home games with FBS schools.

Vandals don't have the

Vandals don't have the football success nor the facilities to compete at the FBS level. They are grasping at straws at this point by staying question.

The wording of the motion

The wording of the motion that will be voted upon is a little odd. Clearly, they would have authority to schedule as an independent in football. With respect to the Big Sky, there does not appear to be any limitation on authority to join for any or all sports. So, is it blanket authority to join the Big Sky for everything, or only for non-football sports?

I found the wording curious too.

If that is in fact the actual motion, it seems they are leaving the option of moving all sports immediately to the Big Sky if independent scheduling doesn't work out.

Martin stadium

Unfortunately for the vandals, with wazu renovations, rent has gone up to play across the border. They can't keep limping along bypassing fbs requirements forever

Smart move. The Big Sky

Smart move. The Big Sky will be their 100% home soon enough but they may as well spend more money on the D1 football experiment regardless of results. In 2 years the MWC could be desperate for another school, or not.

If I was the MWC, I would

If I was the MWC, I would take a pretty strong look at adding the two new Texas schools, especially San Antonio. Huge markets.

Two Years

I takes a two year commitment, as to schedule a home-home with any school, you need two years. That is also when the new FBS Playoff system takes effect - that might really shake up conferences. Since Spear has been the AD, they have consistently gotten better at scheduling MWC, MAC non-conference games. Getting games in Oct & November might be harder, but that's when they could fill their schedule with other indy teams and FCS teams. Throw in a battle of the Palouse series with WSU and we might have a pretty decent schedule. The expanded stadium and events center plan being put on the 6 year plan is far bigger news. That is the first time actually meeting FBS facility standards has been addressed since we we joined the Big West in 1996.

As much fun as it has been verbally skewering the Vandals over

the past twenty + years, it's time to turn the page, avoid rubbing the misfortune into an open wound and offer some support to the Vandals. Unless they decide to visit Bronco stadium, I wish them all well and nothing but success as an Independent or as a member of the Big Sky.


Unless they play the Broncos, I root for the Vandals. As I've said many times before: when an Idaho team wins, the whole state benefits.

I agree Frank

I hate the Vandals they totally suck, but if they have an opportunity to join the Big Sky they should be proud and go all in! They are in for a culture shock in all other sports but I think they know they would start losing big time if they were playing Big Sky football.

Other than that I don't wish them well or otherwise. They never were top tier and when they were beating Boise State, BSU wasn't that hot either. But the Broncos developed their program long before Pete and the Vandals will be many many years trying to catch them now.

Not rubbing salt into a wound here. I wouldn't waste my time

Idaho will do well and better as a


Trying to convine Boiseans of the very same, but going down the 'road-of-no-return' Big East is their dead end....

Moscow's locations hurts them in every an indy they can attract nation-wide talent for football and an excellent education....

Because of this, Idaho will start beating Boise State again in about 5 years....

Good Luck to Idaho !!!!
Good Luck Broncos in 2012 !

road of no return?

thats the biggest bunch of bs maybe ever.............wait until that nice fat TV contract is signed & the millions come rolling in.

Idaho will start beating BSU again? since they wont play? or are you talking about tennis. well maybe there is an even bigger pile of bs.

get real

So Ugly...

All I can say is.... hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
hhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, no wait a sec wait a sec... you mean that that aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhh, no no wait a sec wait a sec..... oh gosh you your post mad me all tear up FROM LAUGHTER!!!!!!!!

You're right -

You have a very limited vocabulary, but you are very gifted at holding down the 'a' and 'h' characters on a keyboard. Let me guess, someone has to tell you what color of clothing to wear on game days - right?

game day clothing

I can see your complaint about BSU having different color schemes for different games. I guess you don't have to worry about that, since no one wants to see your games, either on tv or in person.

Pardon me Chuck...

I'm am truely sorry to have stated in a creative and slightly simplistic way my glee at this gentlemens post. As you are truely the very embodiment of everything that I hold to be wise and true, CHUCK, on this site. Let me express my feelings in a manner that may truely show my deep feels on this matter. The Idaho Vanduls (Misspelled as a humor device) need to go back to the Big Sky until they are ready to, "Step Up" as the kids are saying these days. Thinking that Boise State is going to "crash and burn" because we are in a sports federation that has better competetion and more travel is a true mistake. The situation is this, BSU is moving from MWC to the Big East trying to find better teams to play in Football. I for one am looking forward to seeing BSU play some Florida schools. The other reason for the move is that the MONEY is better in the Big East and this move puts our name out to the general public on the east coast more making it easier to recuit for future success. With those things in mind, CHUCK, I am sure you can see my bemusement.

Your Humble Friend,




You fry wants with that?

are you serious?

There is only one school, maybe two, that can make independent status work in football. Notre Dame and maybe BYU. That is because they had tv contracts just for their school. There is a reason why it doesn't work for any other school, money and scheduling. No one is going to waste a game in the kibble box, or a trip there for four years to go to school in the middle of nowhere.

ugly, you get dumb(er) & dumber

nationwide talent? sure, we can all see why a kid from florida, texas, minnesota or kentucky would come to moscow. idaho will beat boise state in 5 years? they won't even be on the schedule.
still waiting on your "in-depth analysis" on boise state football regarding michigan state.

I'm not sure but...

I'm not sure but shouldn't Idaho center in on what makes it great? Which is an accademic school. They are not a school that is going to attract a number of gifted athletic types. Sorry UorI, just don't see it happening. Going indy is not the right answer for you. Take your football program back to the Big Sky as well. You'll be happier being a midsized fish there. I'm saying this because your my friend and sometimes someone has to say what hurts. I just don't want to see you embarassed anymore.

Puts The Statesman In A Quandry

Either the sports department is going to have to quit covering all Vandal sports except football, or actually acknowledge that there is a third university in the state.

Good Move

Best possible option given the situation for the Vandals right now. Take the much larger pot of cash for two more years and see what happens with conferences and the new playoff system. It's not like it hasn't been done by other small schools throughout the country when they made the jump to 1-A.

I Love My Vandals! Can't

I Love My Vandals! Can't wait to hit up Homecoming here in a few weeks. I will support them through the thick and thin, through the Big Sky or Independent, which is more than what Bandwagon Nation can say.

good joke, waahndals

Make sure you don't fall out of a window while you are up there.

Joke's on you, Jon.

We'll make sure Tanya doesn't fall out of any windows when she comes to visit.

Brainwashing for fun and friendship...


You fry wants with that?

love your Vandals

I think its great that you love your Vandals but wouldn't you rather go up to the homecoming game and see them play a competitive Big Sky game where they have a good shot at being victorious than a body bag game that's over by half time?

Board should put an end to this foolishness

and tell Idaho to join the Big Sky in all sports. Reject the motion and provide a directive. End of the matter and will save Idaho, the school, a lot of money.

Sorry to interrupt the Vandal hate...

But do you really care about the SBOE butting into our state university programs with lower rates of returns, or just when the issue involves Vandal athletics?

No hate. Just cutting to the chase.

No way, no how, does being an independent work out well for them. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Good first step but..

this one throws me "Our priority continues to be to provide the best experience for our students, alumni and fans within a collegiate sports environment". I've always wondered when they were going to start.

There is no way they will

be able to make the schedule issue to work.

Even if they can get three home games in 2013 from home-and-home deals and buy a FCS game.

What they do in 2014 when those are road games? (and they already have 3 road games scheduled)

Then there's the dollars. Idaho nets, maybe $300K a home game, this is a typical amount of a home-and-home expense check.

This is going to be a nightmare.


vndl better liquidate his retirement and send a check to spears.

B81 - you are deaf as usual

As I have been saying for 3 years now:

1. Idaho should go back to the Big Sky and FCS ball.

2. Idaho should refocus on academics.

Apparently you are as deaf as you are just plain mean. I am starting to believe you are just a negative person who likes to attack Vandals because you couldn't fit in at Moscow and you are holding a grudge agains your old hometown.

Even the other members of your Pussae Posse willl admit that I have been an advocate of Idaho going back to the Big Sky for years and Idaho concentrating once again on academics.

Also, I have been a long standing advocate of the Bronco Football Team and a member of the BAA wanting them to bring back a nation chamopionship to Idaho - as I am an advocate of BSU deemphasizing academics and putting more support into the football team. BSU exists only as a football factory with sub-par academics and informed individuals grasp and understand it.

You are just not informed nor capable of grasping it even if you were informed.

Go Broncos.


BAA Member #63799



It would be impossible for anyone to grasp or understand what you are talking about. With how poorly written your argument is, it is obvious you went to Idaho.

The UofI grads I've talked to wants them back in the Big Sky...

These are the old timers though who want the old rivalries back.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

I do.

But I also think BSU should've stayed MWC in all sports.

Regional rivalries are the foundation of passionate games. Look at all you blow oranges drooling over Idaho makes sense!