Preliminary discussions are under way between the University of Idaho and Washington State University concerning the possibility of sharing WSU’s Martin Stadium or even building a new football stadium on the Palouse, Idaho athletic director Oval Jaynes said Friday.
Jaynes said such talks between university presidents Robert Hoover, of Idaho, and WSU’s Sam Smith began early this month. Talks have since grown to include Jaynes and his WSU counterpart, Rick Dickson.
Attempts to reach Dickson on Friday were not successful.
“The concept is very interesting,” said Jaynes, reached in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the Vandals were to play Air Force today. “Whether or not it will all work out is a whole different issue.
“It’s certainly something to look at and study. There are no plans yet, nothing concrete, but the concept of possibly a new stadium on the Palouse might make sense for both of us to use.”
Such an arrangement could benefit both universities.
Idaho, which needs a larger football stadium in order to shake its NCAA Division I-AA status, could play its home games at Martin Stadium on a temporary basis.
Later, Idaho could either help WSU with the expansion of Martin Stadium, or the two universities could funnel their resources toward building a larger facility on a neutral site.
“It’s wide open on that side of it,” said a WSU source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
To move up from I-AA, Idaho needs a football facility that seats at least 30,000. It’s current facility, the Kibbie Dome, seats about 17,000.
Jaynes said he had not yet contacted the NCAA to see if a potential joint stadium venture would satisfy I-A requirements.
Martin Stadium seats 37,600 people. The Cougars have talked about increasing capacity in order to attract lucrative home-and-home arrangements with powerhouse programs like Colorado and Michigan.
In 1995, when Idaho first tried to jump to I-A, the NCAA rejected the Vandals’ proposal to use Martin Stadium for its 1996 conference home games. Idaho had based that request on a 1990 interpretation given to Western Michigan, but an NCAA committee ruled the interpretation wasn’t applicable to Idaho.
“The distinction between that interpretation and Idaho was that Western Michigan was making stadium modifications to reach 30,000,” an NCAA official said at the time.
Such an objection might be quelled if Idaho and WSU were to build, say, a 55,000-seat stadium somewhere between Pullman and Moscow. Both teams would play home games there, although many logistical issues would have to be worked out.
“Look what it would do for the whole area down here, if you have 11 or 12 major weekends economically,” the WSU source said.
Last year, Idaho went through with plans to move from the I-AA Big Sky Conference to the traditionally I-A Big West. The Vandals have been largely unable to cash in on the move, however, because of their continuing I-AA status.
Division I-A teams are reluctant to schedule Idaho because beating a I-AA opponent does not count toward the six wins needed for postseason bowl consideration.
If Idaho and WSU can strike a stadium deal that also allows the Vandals to become I-A, the Cougars would have an incentive to schedule Idaho.
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