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Vandals take spring game seriously

Idaho coach Paul Petrino met with the media today to preview the Vandals' spring game. And yes, this will be as close to a real game as you can have in the spring. More after the jump.

UI scrimmages for last time before spring game

The big takeaways from Idaho's final warmup scrimmage for Friday's spring game? Chad Chalich appears to be the No. 1 quarterback going into summer. Paul Petrino agan called his two top running backs, Kris Olugbode and Jerrel Brown, “the biggest studs” of camp. And he again appreciated the Vandals' defense flying around and making plays.

We've got a summary below.

New JC players shine in Idaho scrimmage

In Idaho coach Paul Petrino's experience, only about 50 percent of junior-college signees become dependable players. But five of the seven JC players he signed in January as early enrollees have already made big impacts this spring, and all five played well in Saturday's scrimmage.

The new JC players, particularly Kris Olugbode, are the subject of our story below. Keep reading for that and notes.

Idaho going back to Sun Belt in football

UPDATED

After the Idaho State Board of Education approved the University of Idaho's request to seek membership in the Sun Belt Conference, athletic director Rob Spear confirmed via Twitter that UI will join its old conference in football only in 2014. Spear tweeted: “I want to the thank our State Board of Education and Regent of the UI for approving football membership in the Sun Belt.”

We've got our full story below and a few additional notes.

Report: Idaho takes steps to join Sun Belt in football

The University of Idaho this week will seek permission from the State Board of Education to join the Sun Belt Conference as a football-only member in 2014, the Idaho Statesman reported Monday. UI athletic director Rob Spear told the Statesman that the apparent invitation from the Sun Belt has brought a “sense of relief.” Idaho left the Sun Belt in 2005 after four years to join the WAC, which has disintegrated with its core membership leaving for more stable conferences.

Spear told The Spokesman-Review that Idaho will likely meet with the State Board on Wednesday. The Vandals will operate as an FBS independent this fall, and they had already scheduled games as an independent for 2014.

ESPN.com reported Monday the Sun Belt will add Appalachian State and Georgia Southern in 2015. Both schools are currently in the FCS. In the story, Sun Belt comissioner Karl Benson, who brought Idaho to the WAC in 2005, said Idaho and New Mexico State were being considered by his new conference.

Vandals get hot, nudge Seattle U

Mike McChristian's day was made well before the Vandals tipped off with Seattle U. He got a surprise visit from his mother, who flew in from California just in time to watch her son drop a career-high 26 points — and go on one of the most impressive 3-point displays in recent Idaho history — in a 76-72 win.

We've got our story and notes below after the Vandals' final game of the regular season.

Idaho falls apart in second half

If Idaho's season wasn't slipping away before tonight, it certainly is now. The Vandals were poleaxed by Texas-San Antonio in the final 20 minutes of a 74-56 loss. It was another unsightly loss for UI — its fifth in six games — and suddenly the Vandals are in danger of falling into seventh place in the WAC and the play-in round of the conference tournament in two weeks.

We've got all the details below, including coach Don Verlin questioning his team's heart and effort.

Petrino on QBs, developing players

National signing day has come and gone, but below we revisit what first-year Idaho coach Paul Petrino had to say about developing players in general and quarterbacks in particular.

Read on for his revealing comments, and what they mean for the Vandals.

Vandal signing day updates

Idaho's letter of intents started rolling in early this morning. Check below to see a list of players who have signed with the Vandals. We'll keep this updated throughout the day, leading up to Paul Petrino's news conference at 1:15 p.m.

Vandals manhandled late by Utah State

After a miserable start, the Vandals went blow-for-blow with Utah State tonight. That is, until midway through the second half when the depleted Aggies pulled away for a 77-67 win at Cowan Spectrum. The bottom line: “I thought we battled for some of the game. I didn’t think we battled all the game,” coach Don Verlin said. “And what you’ve got to do to beat Utah State is battle every possession.”

Verlin has coached with and against Stew Morrill enough to know what it takes to hang with the Aggies, but he admitted afterward that “I got my butt outcoached tonight.” You can read more in our game story below.

Barone’s huge game carries Idaho

Kyle Barone is making a strong case for WAC player of the year honors. He followed a 27-point, 16-rebound effort on Thursday with 25 points and 16 rebounds tonight in a 74-70 win over UTSA. He also made the biggest play of the night when he found Mike McChristian in the corner for a huge 3-pointer with a minute left. 

That key assist late in the game? It came with Barone 10-for-10 from the field. He didn't take another shot the rest of night and set a school record for the best shooting performance from the field, eclipsing the 9-for-9 efforts from Tanoris Shepherd in 2002 and Phil Hopson in 1982.

In two games this week, Barone went 18-for-20 with 14 straight shots made. We have our game story below.

Idaho legend Anderson dies at 82

Wayne Anderson, a former player, coach, and assistant athletic director at Idaho and charter member of the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame, died Wednesday at the age of 82. We have more below on the Spokane native's passing.

Linehan’s son commits to Idaho

We have news on a new Idaho football commitment and a Vandals offensive lineman in legal trouble. Both stories are below.

Vandals add former USC walk-on QB

A week ago Idaho football coach Paul Petrino said the Vandals weren't likely to add a junior-college quarterback who would compete in spring camp. But that changed this past weekend, when the Vandals signed former USC preferred walk-on Anthony Neyer. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior-to-be spent last year as a backup at Pierce College in Los Angeles.

“Anthony has great talent,” Petrino said. “He throws a nice ball with a great release. We are very excited to have him join the team in January and compete for the quarterback job.”

More on Neyer below.

Petrino complete staff, talks recruiting

Idaho football coach Paul Petrino has been on the job for 16 days. In that time, he's assembled his coaching staff and had 13 recruits verbally commit. We've got a transcript of what he said in an afternoon teleconference below.

Reports: UI hires Cinkovich as offensive coordinator

Kris Cinkovich, formerly the wide receivers coach at Arkansas and UNLV, has been hired as Idaho's offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, according to multiple reports. Cinkovich coached last season at Arkansas with Paul Petrino, the Vandals' new coach, and played at Carroll College with Bobby Petrino, Paul's brother. His teams at Carroll were coached by Bob Petrino Sr. He also spent two years as a player at Spokane Falls Community College (1979-1980).

Cinkovich was named one of the nation's top 50 recruiters by 247Sports.com in February. He spent three seasons with the Razorbacks after six seasons at UNLV. This is his first coordinator job. He led Las Vegas High to a state title in 2003.

This past season Cinkovich made $214,800 at Arkansas. In 2011, Idaho paid offensive coordinator Steve Axman $130,000. The salary for Jason Gesser, who replaced Axman for one season, was never disclosed.

Cinkovich's reported hiring means the Vandals have let go receivers coach Mike Levenseller, who spent one season in Moscow after being dismissed after a long coaching career at Washington State.

Idaho announces hiring of Lee, Anderson

Ronnie Lee, a former Washington State defensive back and Idaho assistant, is the Vandals' new defensive coordinator and secondary coach. In a release from UI, coach Paul Petrino said Lee was at the top of his list for the job. “For me, I hit the jackpot and got the guy I wanted,” Petrino said.

More on the Lee hiring can be found here. UI also announced the hiring of linebackers coach Mike Anderson, a former Vandals linebacker and graduate assistant

For a roundup of unofficial UI staff additions, see here.

Petrino’s staff at Idaho starting to form

UPDATED: 5:15 p.m.

Paul Petrino's a busy man. The new Idaho football coach has completed at least part of his staff, with names of new assistants trickling in. We've got the latest updates below. Read on.

A coach’s son takes over at Idaho

Paul Petrino is from a coaching family. He remembers breaking down game film with his father as a boy. And he and his brother, Bobby, would watch tape for eight hours at a time in the offseason while together at Arkansas. Yes, Petrino is a coach's son, and now he has another title he's always wanted: head coach. 

Petrino was introduced Monday as the new face of the Idaho football program. He had lots to say, and we've got lots of details to pass along below. You can also find an early version of our story for the paper.

Petrino accepts offer to become UI coach

Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has accepted an offer to become the next Idaho football coach, the Spokesman-Review has confirmed.

UI has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at the Litehouse Center in the Kibbie Dome.

CoachingSearch.com was the first to report the hire.

Petrino replaces Robb Akey, who was fired on Oct. 21 after five-plus seasons. The Vandals went 1-11 this year and have had one winning season since 2000.

In addition to running the offense and coaching quarterbacks at Arkansas, Petrino has previously coached at Illinois, Louisville and with the Atlanta Falcons, among other stops. The Butte, Mont., native was an offensive and special teams assistant at Idaho from 1992-1994. He's the brother of former Arkansas and Falcons coach Bobby Petrino.

Idaho narrowed down a large list of candidates to five finalists last week. Petrino interviewed for the job on Thursday, according to a source. The other finalists were Wyoming defensive coordinator and former UI coach Chris Tormey, Central Washington coach Blaine Bennett, San Jose State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren and UI interim coach Jason Gesser.

The Vandals will compete as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent next year after the WAC dissolved as a football league. Petrino becomes the sixth UI head coach since the school became an FBS (then NCAA Division 1-A) program in 1996.