MOSCOW, Idaho – Next year’s football schedule, the future home of its Olympic sports, the direction of its athletic department – the University of Idaho made definitive statements on all these nagging issues Friday.
But there was one question athletic director Rob Spear couldn’t fully answer: Will the Vandals remain at the Football Bowl Subdivision level beyond 2013?
“We are going to try to find a conference home (for football) every year. That’s the No. 1 priority for us,” said Spear, after announcing he had completed UI’s 2013 schedule as one of six FBS independents in the nation.
Spear reiterated that Idaho’s preference is to remain at the NCAA’s highest division for football, the FBS, while it moves all other sports to the Big Sky Conference in 2014-15.
School president Duane Nellis signed an agreement with the Big Sky – a league Idaho left in 1996 after being a charter member – earlier this week in Park City, Utah. UI opted to keep its Olympic sports in the Western Athletic Conference for 2013-14 because of the money it will receive through buyouts and other agreements.
“This move (to the Big Sky) will allow us to save travel costs and also limit the time away for our student-athletes in the classroom, which we think is a significant step forward,” Nellis said.
Idaho’s 2013 football schedule includes five home games and the renewal of its rivalry with Washington State. The Vandals will host Temple of the Big East, Fresno State of the Mountain West and Northern Illinois of the Mid-American Conference.
Although UI has all 12 games finalized, one BCS opponent has yet to be named. Spear said the Vandals will get a payout of $950,000 from the unidentified big-conference school, as well as $850,000 to play at Mississippi.
Washington State is paying UI $550,000 to play in Pullman for the first time since 2007.
“It was really important to balance this schedule financially and competitively,” Spear said.
Idaho’s athletic director also announced the Vandals will sign a backup agreement with the Idaho Famous Potato Bowl. If the Vandals become postseason eligible in 2013, UI will be in the running for the bowl game in Boise – what Spear called a “key component for our football program.”
Spear said he also hopes to expand UI’s package of televised football games through Learfield Sports Properties, which owns the Vandals’ media rights.
In 2014, Idaho will become the Big Sky’s 12th member. In a release, the conference said it is exploring creating two six-team divisions for basketball and volleyball.
|Aug. 31||at North Texas|
|Sept. 7||at Wyoming|
|Sept. 14||Northern Illinois|
|Sept. 21||at Washington St.|
|Oct. 5||Fresno State|
|Oct. 12||at Arkansas St.|
|Oct. 26||at Mississippi|
|Nov. 2||New Mexico State|
|Nov. 9||Old Dominion|
|Nov. 23||at BCS team, TBA|
|Nov. 30||at New Mexico St.|