Idaho won more football games in 2015 than in the last three seasons combined, but that might not be enough to keep the Vandals in college football's top echelon. The Vandals could drop to the FCS level after the 2017 season, a report says.
The Idaho football team’s 2015 season was considered a success in that, for the first time since 2011, the Vandals won more than one game. After three-straight one-win seasons, Idaho broke through with a 4-8 campaign in head coach Paul Petrino’s third season. But that might not be enough to keep the long-suffering Vandals among college football’s top echelon.
According to Football Scoop, Idaho will drop down to the FCS level after the 2017 season.
Idaho President Chuck Staben will make an official announcement about Idaho’s future conference affiliation at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning.
The Vandals currently play in the Sun Belt conference of the FBS. But last month, the Sun Belt informed Idaho and New Mexico State that it would not be renewing the two schools’ football only memberships past the 2017 season.
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The Sun Belt’s footprint extends as far southeast as North Carolina (Appalachian State) and with the exception of Idaho and New Mexico State, consists entirely of schools in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Idaho and New Mexico State only joined the Sun Belt in 2013 because the forces of conference realignment resulted in their previous conference, the Western Athletic Conference, to drop football as a sport. Idaho and New Mexico State competed as independents in 2012 before joining the Sun Belt the following season.
According to USA Today’s annual college athletic department finances database, Idaho’s 2014-15 athletic department revenue of $19.6 million was the smallest among all the schools that play football at the FBS level, and is much more on par with that of schools that offer football at the FCS level. The Vandals also rely heavily ($10.5 million) on school subsidies to keep the athletic department going.
The most logical permanent home for Idaho football is the FCS level Big Sky Conference — which the Vandals already compete in for all their other sports.
Both UW and Washington State play the Vandals in football in 2016, but do not have any other games against Idaho scheduled for the next five years.
The Idaho football team went 1-10 in 2014, 1-11 in 2013, 1-11 in 2012 and 2-10 in 2011. The Vandals’ last bowl appearance came in 2009, when, under coach Robb Akey, they beat Bowling Green 43-42 in the Humanitarian Bowl to finish the season 8-5.
Staben told The Spokesman-Review last month that he believes Idaho would have a “nationally competitive” FBS program if the Vandals decided to take up the standing offer from the Big Sky to add their football team to the conference.
“We are one of the lower resourced teams in the FBS. I think we would be in the top third of FCS-type teams,” Staben said.