By Brian Murphy
The Idaho Vandals will play 12 games as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent in 2013 and will move its non-football programs to the Big Sky in 2014, the school announced Friday.
Five of the games will be at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, complying with NCAA requirements.
In addition to previously announced games at Wyoming (Sept. 7), vs. Northern Illinois (Sept. 14), at Washington State (Sept. 21) and at Mississippi (Oct. 26), Idaho will play Temple, Fresno State, New Mexico State and Old Dominion at home and North Texas, Arkansas State and New Mexico State on the road. (Full schedule below).
The Vandals will play two games with New Mexico State, which is also making the move to FBS independence.
"It's really important that we balance the schedule financially and competitively," Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said.
The Vandals will be paid $550,000 for its game at Washington State, $850,000 for its game at Mississippi and $950,000 for its Nov. 23 game at a BCS opponent. Spear said the opponent is not Boise State, which joins the Big East next year.
Idaho is currently a member of the WAC and will remain in the league for other spots in 2013-14 before returning to the Big Sky. The WAC will not sponsor football in 2013.
The Vandals were charter members of the Big Sky in 1963 and played in the conference until 1996.
“We’re excited about this association back with the Big Sky Conference,” President Duane Nellis said. “We have many historic rivalries within the Big Sky Conference, some going back over 100 years.”
Nellis and Spear said the affiliation with the Big Sky would save on travel costs and missed class time.
“It’s going to get us back to our rivalry games and create more fan interest,” Idaho women’s basketball coach Jon Newlee said.
The Big Sky membership for non-football sports in 2014 is: Idaho, Idaho State, Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State.
Idaho and Eastern Washington first played basketball in 1905. Idaho first played Montana in 1916 and a year later played Montana State for the first time.
The league will explore dividing into two six-team divisions for basketball and volleyball.
Date Opponent Conference Location
Aug. 31 North Texas Sun Belt Denton, Texas
Sept. 7 Wyoming Mountain West Laramie, Wyo.
Sept. 14 Northern Illinois Mid-American Moscow, Idaho
Sept. 21 Washington State Pac-12 Pullman, Wash.
Sept. 28 Temple Big East Moscow, Idaho
Oct. 5 Fresno State Mountain West Moscow, Idaho
Oct. 12 Arkansas State Sun Belt Jonesboro, Ark.
Oct. 26 Mississippi SEC Oxford, Miss
Nov. 2 New Mexico State Independent Moscow, Idaho
Nov. 9 Old Dominion Colonial Moscow, Idaho
Nov. 23 BCS opponent TBA
Nov. 30 New Mexico State Independent Las Cruces, N.M.
Football secures independent FBS schedule for 2013
MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho accepted a membership invitation from the Big Sky Conference for all sports – with the exception of football, which announced its 2013 independent schedule.
“We are pleased to announce the renewal of our partnership with the Big Sky Conference,” said University of Idaho M. Duane Nellis, who signed the agreement – at the league’s Oct. 16 meeting at Park City, Utah, to move the Vandals to the Big Sky beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
“As one of the six charter members, our relationship with the Big Sky is a long and storied one. Our student-athletes won team titles and individual championships, and were honored for their academic successes during our original 32 years in the league. We look forward to the same on-field and in-the-classroom achievement as we rejoin the Big Sky.”
Director of Athletics Rob Spear and Nellis agreed the renewed regional rivalries are a significant piece in the Vandals’ conference status, as is maintaining their NCAA Division I status in all sports. They also applauded the Big Sky’s commitment to excellence and reputation as a competitive, successful and robust league.
“The Big Sky is a conference rich in its history and successes,” Spear said. “Returning to the Big Sky allows us to renew regional and historic rivalries. Some of these rivalries date back more than 100 years and are a significant part of our legacy as Vandals.
“We are appreciative of our time in the Western Athletic Conference but at this point, we believe this is the best move for our programs.”
The landscape of the Big Sky Conference translates to less travel for Vandal teams, which reduces time spent out of class as well as travel costs.
The Big Sky embraced the return of the Vandals.
“We welcome The University of Idaho back to the Big Sky, a conference where it excelled athletically and academically for more than 30 years as a flagship member,’’ Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton said. “For decades Idaho enjoyed very successful athletics teams across the board in the Big Sky Conference. We expect the Vandals to enjoy success in our league again.”
Vandal coaches Don Verlin (men’s basketball), Jon Newlee (women’s basketball) and Debbie Buchanan (volleyball) endorsed the move.
· Said Verlin: ““I’m really excited about the regional rivalries that the Big Sky Conference has to offer. The Big Sky has shown over the last few years that they’re competitive on the national scene and they’ve produced some very good players – Damian Lillard went sixth in the NBA Draft this year.”
· Said Newlee: “I love the move to the Big Sky. It’s going to get us back to our rivalry games and create more fan interest. The league is very strong from a women’s basketball standpoint. It’s a talented league and obviously I know it well. I think it’s a great move for us and a great move for all of our sports at Idaho.”
· Said Buchanan: “It's the right move for our athletic department. It's something Rob has been working on for a while. For volleyball it's probably in some ways more competitive than the WAC right now. From a standpoint of student-athlete welfare, our students are going to be in class more and we're not going to be on the road as much. That will also help us from a recruiting standpoint.”
As the bulk of the Vandals’ sports return to the Big Sky, the Vandal football program will become one of six independent programs in the nation. Also playing as independents are Notre Dame, Navy, Army, BYU and New Mexico State.
Spear announced in August that the Vandals would explore independent football status. Today he announced the 12-game slate, which includes five home and seven road games.
“Over the last several years, we have invested a significant amount in FBS football,” said Spear, adding the challenge of putting together an independent schedule is very complex and challenging. “There are many, many moving pieces. In the end, though, I believe we have the balance we need in our football schedule for next year – competitively and financially sound.”
As part of the move to independent football status, Spear announced a back-up agreement with the Idaho Famous Potatoes Bowl is in the works.
“A tie-in with a bowl game is a key component for our football program,” Spear said. “Not only are bowl games rewards for a season-well played but they are a rallying point and cause for celebration for our alumni, fans and boosters.”
Big Sky release
OGDEN, Utah (Oct. 19, 2012) - The University of Idaho will return to the Big Sky Conference on July 1, 2014 league Commissioner Doug Fullerton and UI President M. Duane Nellis announced Friday.
The majority of Idaho’s intercollegiate athletic teams will begin Big Sky Conference play during the 2014-15 academic year. The Vandal football program will play as an Independent at the Bowl Subdivision level of Division I football.
The University of Idaho will become the Big Sky’s 12th member. The Big Sky currently consists of 11 core institutions plus Cal Poly and UC Davis as football affiliate members.
The Big Sky was founded on July 1, 1963 with charter members Idaho, Idaho State, Gonzaga, Montana, Montana State and Weber State. Idaho left the Big Sky following the 1995-96 athletic season. Since July of 2005, the Vandals have been members of the Western Athletic Conference.
“We welcome The University of Idaho back to the Big Sky, a conference where it excelled athletically and academically for more than 30 years as a flagship member,’’ said Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton. “President Duane Nellis and Athletics Director Rob Spear have faced some very difficult challenges as the conference landscape has shifted. Both are to be commended for finding a stable home with a strong academic and athletic future. Our current membership can’t wait to begin renewing old rivalries and developing new relationships with the Vandals.’’
“We are pleased to announce the renewal of our partnership with the Big Sky Conference,” said Nellis, who signed the agreement – at the league’s Oct. 16 meeting at Park City, Utah, to move the Vandals to the Big Sky beginning with the 2014-15 school year. “As one of the six charter members, our relationship with the Big Sky is a long and storied one. Our student-athletes won team titles and individual championships, and were honored for their academic successes during our original 32 years in the league. We look forward to the same on-field and in-the-classroom achievement as we rejoin the Big Sky.”
The Vandals enjoyed years of success in the Big Sky, winning four regular-season and postseason men’s basketball championships. The 1981-82 Idaho men’s basketball team ascended to sixth in the Associated Press Top 25 season during a 27-3 campaign.
While in the Big Sky, Idaho won 10 Big Sky Conference men’s tennis championships, three men’s outdoor track and field titles, one men’s indoor track and field championship, two men’s cross country championships, three regular-season volleyball titles as well as four postseason volleyball titles. The Vandals also won multiple titles in baseball, men’s skiing, and men’s swimming and diving, sports the Big Sky no longer sponsors.
Idaho won the Big Sky Men’s All-Sports Trophy in 1965-66 and again in 1989-90. The Vandals captured the Combined Men’s and Women’s All-Sports Trophy in 1989-90.
“For decades Idaho enjoyed very successful athletics teams across the board in the Big Sky Conference,’’ said Fullerton. “We expect the Vandals to enjoy success in our league again. Travel for Idaho supporters will be much easier as it plays the likes of Eastern Washington, Portland State, Idaho State, Montana and Montana State.
Idaho’s rivalries with some current Big Sky members date back more than 100 years. Idaho and Eastern Washington first played in men’s basketball in 1905. The first Montana-Idaho men’s basketball game was in 1916, and a year later the Vandals played Montana State for the first time.
“The Big Sky is a conference rich in its history and successes,’’ said Idaho Athletics Director Rob Spear. “Returning to the Big Sky allows us to renew regional and historic rivalries. Some of these rivalries date back more than 100 years and are a significant part of our legacy as Vandals.”
Idaho’s women’s basketball team began playing Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State in 1975. The Vandals first participated against Portland State in 1979, and Idaho State in 1979. In 1976, Idaho’s volleyball team began playing Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State and Portland State. A year later, Idaho and Idaho State played for the first time on the volleyball court.
“Another dimension of this decision was for our student-athletes,’’ Nellis said. “As far as travel, it allows them much more opportunity to participate in sports while reducing the amount of time away from classes. I think that’s an important part of this decision as well.’’
The Big Sky Conference added the University of North Dakota and Southern Utah as full members on July 1, 2012. Cal Poly and U.C. Davis joined as football-affiliate members on the same date. The league has undergone a major rebranding campaign spearheaded by SME Branding
“It was important to see the quality of schools that the Big Sky has added,’’ Nellis said. “The Big Sky is truly emerging as one of the major conferences in the West. That was certainly something that added to our decision-making. It makes sense in so many ways.’’
The Big Sky Conference has already begun the process of exploring a move to a two-division, six-team format starting in 2014-15 for sports such as basketball and volleyball.