Just when we thought it was safe to focus on the games.
The Big Sky Conference announced that Idaho will join the league in 2014, giving it 14 basketball-playing members. The Vandals will leave the WAC — well, kind of, since the WAC is pretty much dissolving — for the Big Sky in all sports except football, where they will play as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent.
“We welcome The University of Idaho back to the Big Sky, a conference where it excelled athletically and academically for more than 30 years as a flagship member,’’ said Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton in a release. “President Duane Nellis and Athletics Director Rob Spear have faced some very difficult challenges as the conference landscape has shifted. Both are to be commended for finding a stable home with a strong academic and athletic future. Our current membership can’t wait to begin renewing old rivalries and developing new relationships with the Vandals.’’
It’s a reversion of sorts for Idaho, who were members of the Big Sky Conference from 1963-1996.
Idaho is the third new full-fledged member of the conference this season. North Dakota and Southern Utah officially joined the Big Sky in July.
It’s definitely the right move for Idaho as a whole. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1989-90 and they’ve only had one 20-win season since then, in 1992-93 under Larry Eustachy. The market for Idaho is slim in terms of media and television. The Big Sky is full of teams in that position like Weber State, Montana and Eastern Washington.
As far as the school going independent in FBS football, good luck making a bowl that way (though for a program like Idaho, a bowl game might actually lose them revenue.)
The Vandals tried to be a somewhat big-time program in a somewhat big-time conference, but that’s tough to do in the chimney (peninsula?) of Idaho. This is where the Vandals belong.