BOISE, Idaho — The University of Idaho is hoping to join the ranks of college football teams with independent status.
School officials on Friday will make their case to the Idaho State Board of Education that playing outside of a formal conference is in the best long-term interests of the Vandal football team.
Idaho athletic officials are also seeking permission to join the Big Sky Conference for non-football sports.
The Vandals now play in the Western Athletic Conference, but the league has been withering amid conference realignment.
Idaho is an original member of the Big Sky conference, and school officials say rejoining the league would re-establish historic rivalries with schools like Montana, Montana State and Idaho State.
The state board is scheduled to vote on the proposal at a meeting Friday in Boise.
Accordin go the Idaho Statesman, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear says the time for action — and deliberation — is running out for Spear and the Vandals. “By Sept. 1, we better have something figured out,” Spear said.
Idaho will play as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent in 2013 if it can secure a schedule, Nellis and Spear said. Per NCAA rules, Idaho must play five home games, four against FBS members.
“If we can get a football schedule put together, we do it,” Spear said.
Said Nellis: “If it doesn’t look like we can secure a schedule for us at the FBS level, then we’re going to have to make other decisions.”
Idaho has not yet asked the NCAA for a scheduling waiver, but it did talk to the governing body about maintaining FBS status even if the program didn’t compete as a true FBS independent, presumably playing a mix of FBS and Football Championship Subdivision teams.
The Big Sky currently has 11 all-sport members. The biggest benefit for the schools would be maintaining two automatic bids into NCAA tournaments, including the men’s basketball tournament, and having a better shot at one of them.
Meanwhile, financial commitments from Boise State and the Big East helped convince the Big West to take the Broncos’ Olympic sports programs, Boise State president Bob Kustra said Wednesday.
Big West presidents will vote on Boise State’s membership after school starts, Kustra said, but he is confident the Broncos will be accepted into the California-based league. Eight of 10 presidents must vote in favor of adding Boise State.
“No doubt, as far as I’m concerned,” Kustra told the Idaho Statesman.
Two or three presidents, he said, had initial concerns about allowing Boise State into the league. The Broncos were not invited last year when they initially committed to the Big East in football. Instead, Boise State agreed to place its teams in the Western Athletic Conference, which has since been raided and is in danger of collapse.
Money appears to have converted those against adding Boise State.
San Diego State, which like Boise State is moving its football program to the Big East next season, also played a role, Kustra said. The Aztecs are joining the Big West for non-football sports next season.