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Waiting for the Other Cleat to Fall: University of Idaho Knocked Down a Peg in College Football


  • University of Idaho
  • Dr. Chuck Staben

When Boise Weekly interviewed University of Idaho President Dr. Chuck Staben in February,
he had just made a critical presentation to the Sun Belt Conference in an attempt to keep the U of I football team in the Division I FBS league.

"The options are whether we stay with the Sun Belt, play as an independent or possibly join the Big Sky Conference," Staben said, adding that he heard as much about this dilemma from alumni as anyone else. "You are correct. I take input from everyone."

The Sunbelt announced March 1 that, following the 2017 season, the U of I would be dropped. Earlier this week, university officials said Staben would join Athletic Director Rob Spear and Head Football Coach Paul Petrino for a Thursday, April 28 "announcement."

  • University of Idaho
That immediately prompted several sources on April 27 to report the U of I would be dropping down to FCS play—the first university in the nation to drop from FBS to FCS—and join the Big Sky Conference.

The advantage, university insiders say are natural regional rivalries among other Big Sky schools, such as Idaho State University, Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington.

The disadvantages are huge. It's estimated that the University of Idaho could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, usually divided by the Sun Belt Conference in bowl and playoff money generated by television contracts. Additionally, the University of Idaho could possibly lose as much as $1 million from large schools, such as Penn State, Louisiana State University and Florida, which were scheduled to play the Vandals beyond the 2017 season. Such large universities traditionally pay smaller universities big fees for the privilege of—frankly—beating their brains out.

“I understand the magnitude of this decision and the strong opinions that surround it, both for and against, but joining the Big Sky Conference is the best possible course for our athletics program and for our university,” said Staben in Thursday morning's announcement. “We have carefully weighed our options and concluded that competing as an independent with an extremely uncertain future conference affiliation would be irresponsible when we have the alternative of joining one of the most stable FCS conferences.