With the WAC slowly dissolving into nothing more than just a memory, the Idaho Vandals are looking to gain their Independence.
The WAC, who currently holds 7 members including Idaho, will lose Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio to Conference USA, while Texas State heads to the Sun Belt and San Jose State to the Mountain West. Those moves leave only Idaho and New Mexico State without a conference to call their own.
With Mountain West adding Utah State and San Jose State, and denying Idaho, the Vandals where put in a tough spot. Regionally the Sun Belt didn’t make sense, and weren’t willing to expand any further. So, instead of dropping down a level to the FCS, Idaho officials say the best way to go is by becoming independent. Head Coach Robb Akey echoes those sentiments;
“Is it the ideal answer? Absolutely not,” Akey said of independence. “I think it’s a necessity if we can’t get ourselves into a conference situation. It’s a necessity to remain at that level.
“If some of the gurus are right and people are jumping around again in a couple years, you need to keep yourself in a position to be an option.”
The trickiest part for Idaho is scheduling, especially since they aren’t on the caliber of Notre Dame or even BYU. Teams are more willing to schedule those schools as non-conference games mid-season since they travel well and would bring good football to their stadiums. It would be hard for the Vandals to attract many people to a game, even if the fans are almost assured of a guaranteed victory.
“The biggest issue to me is scheduling,” said Robb Spear, the schools athletic director. “And scheduling during the mid-part of the year when you have conferences playing conference play and they’re sometimes unwilling to go play a non-conference game. But we really think that we can make it work as we pencil out that we could make it work financially. But it would be dependent on us playing probably three money games to do that.”
This season, the Idaho athletic department will make more than $2 million dollars with road games at LSU, North Carolina, BYU, and Bowling Green. Expect to see many more games of that caliber in the Vandals future.
Officials from the school will meet and make their case on Friday to the Idaho State Board of Education that becoming Independent in football is in the best long-term interest of the football program.
Idaho plans on joining the Big Sky Conference, a league they were originally apart of, in all other sports to re-launch rivalries with Idaho State, Montana, and Montana State.
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports