MOSCOW, Idaho – In an unprecedented move, the University of Idaho reportedly will announce it is moving its football program down to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision and will return to the Big Sky Conference.
The Idaho Statesman reported that a press conference with university president Chuck Staben, athletic director Rob Spear and football coach Paul Petrino is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday. The Statesman cited sources within the athletic department confirming the move.
The Vandals, who competed in the FCS in the Big Sky Conference from 1965-95, moved up to the Bowl Subdivision 20 years ago. They've posted a 73-162 record since then with two bowl appearances – both in the then-Humanitarian Bowl in Boise – and won the Big West Conference championship in 1998.
They most recently were a member of the Sun Belt Conference, but the league announced March 1 that it would not renew the memberships of Idaho and New Mexico State as football-only schools after the 2017 season.
No school that has made the move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision has dropped back down. The University of the Pacific, the last school to drop out of FBS play, dropped football entirely.
Idaho is currently a member of the Big Sky in all sports but football. The move would give the Big Sky 14 members in football.
The move could also re-open the Montana-Idaho rivalry for the Little Brown Stein; UM retains the trophy after beating the Vandals 41-28 in the two schools' most recent meeting in 2003.
The school would have to shed 22 scholarships – from 85 to 63 – if it drops down one level.
The Big Sky had been pursuing Idaho for a return to the league as a football-playing member. Commissioner Doug Fullerton has said that league is also courting New Mexico State.