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UI has four at home in 2005

The University of Idaho has released its 2005 football schedule and it looks nothing like the 2004 version.

The Vandals will have four “true” home games, compared to three last season. The Vandals will log 7,214 air miles – though Idaho is expected to bus to three road games – compared to 24,902 air miles in 2004. That’s a direct result of Idaho moving into the Western Athletic Conference in 2005 as opposed to the far-flung Sun Belt that has been its home since 2001.

The schedule is notable for another reason: Idaho has two byes. Last season the Vandals played 12 consecutive weeks without a break.

“The WAC is probably tougher (than the Sun Belt) so the overall quality of teams is better,” said Idaho coach Nick Holt, who was 3-9 in his first season in 2004. “But the travel is easier and we have more home games in the Dome, which is really nice. I think our fans will embrace the new league and they relate to these teams a little better.”

The 2004 schedule, which took Idaho roughly 85 percent of the way around the world, had perhaps the most unattractive home schedule in school history with visits from Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State. (Technically, the Idaho-Washington State game at Martin Stadium was considered a Vandals home game for NCAA attendance requirement purposes.)

This fall, Idaho will play new WAC rivals Hawaii, Utah State, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals’ longest road trip will be against New Mexico State in Las Cruces.

The Vandals will open the season against neighbor Washington State at Martin Stadium on Sept. 3. The Vandals visit UNLV and Washington the next two weeks. WSU was 5-6 last season, UNLV 2-9 and Washington 1-10.

Idaho’s inaugural WAC game will be against Hawaii on Sept. 24, followed by a visit from Utah State the following week.

Idaho will face four teams (UNLV, Washington, Utah State and New Mexico State) with new coaches. Hawaii, Fresno State and Boise State played in bowl games last year. Fresno State (No. 22) and BSU (No. 12) finished the season ranked in the AP top 25.

The Vandals’ bye weeks fall after road trips to Nevada on Oct. 8 and New Mexico State on Oct. 29.

“You can look at byes a couple ways,” Holt said. “You have to get your rest, but you have to make sure your team gets better in that week, too. We’ve all seen teams come off byes and not play well, especially in the first half.”

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear has fielded calls from several national powers, including Miami, Kansas State and USC, interested in scheduling the Vandals. The only contest that interested Holt was national champion USC, but the Vandals had a game scheduled with Washington on the Trojans’ available date. Holt is a former USC assistant and Idaho regularly recruits southern California.

“The buyout with Washington was $100,000 and it just wasn’t worth it,” Spear said.

The Vandals tentatively have a home game against San Diego State in 2006 and will visit Oregon State. In 2007, Eastern Michigan of the MAC will visit Idaho and the Vandals are scheduled to play at San Diego State.

In 2008, Oregon State, San Diego State and Idaho State are on Idaho’s home schedule, which would give the Vandals eight games (counting WSU) on the Palouse. Idaho is considering a 2008 road game at Clemson. There is some concern that San Diego State is trying to change one or more of its future games with Idaho.

Beginning in 2006, the NCAA will require five Division I-A home games. Spear said he’s not opposed to playing a I-AA opponent in certain years. Currently teams can count a I-AA win toward the six-win bowl requirement once every four years. That standard could change with the 12-game schedules in 2006.

“Maybe once every three years or so we’ll go play a big-name team, but if we do it’s got to be a game that’s going to pay,” Spear said.

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