The time Rob Spear doesnt spend working on Idahos conference situation and its athletic future, the Vandals athletic director is thinking about it.
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 Saturday.
It could be even sooner.
Any conference affiliation change by the Vandals must be approved by the Idaho State Board of Education, which meets this week in Pocatello. The board does not meet again until October. Idaho President Duane Nellis said the school is having an ongoing dialogue with the board.
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 doesnt look like we can secure a schedule for us at the FBS level, then were going to have to make other decisions.
Idaho has one signed contract for a home game next season against Northern Illinois. Spear said there are a lot of possibilities, but he does not have any other signed contracts, in part because the state board has not signed off on any move.
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 didnt compete as a true FBS independent, presumably playing a mix of FBS and Football Championship Subdivision teams.
Weve explored a bunch of things with them, said Spear, who acknowledged that getting games in October and November is the most difficult part of an independent schedule.
Idaho is seeking home-and-home contracts with potential opponents, meaning independence is likely a two-year commitment. The Vandals believe conference realignment is not over yet and that future moves could leave space for Idaho in an FBS league.
If we can hold out a year or two, see how things unfold, possibly theyll be a place for the University of Idaho at that level, Nellis said.
As for the Vandals other sports teams, Nellis said the WAC has restarted talks with the Big Sky about an alliance that would involve some teams moving from the Big Sky to the WAC for non-football sports. WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd said last month that the talks had been shelved. But they are now back on.
If the Big Sky-WAC alliance works, thats a very good solution for all of our Olympic sports, Nellis said.
The Big Sky currently has 11 all-sport members. The WAC has four, not including Boise State, which is trying to get into the Big West. The plan would be to create two eight-team leagues.
The biggest benefit for the schools would be maintaining two automatic bids into NCAA tournaments, including the mens basketball tournament, and having a better shot at one of them.
Its a win-win for both the Big Sky and the WAC, Nellis said.
Spear has been part of the alliance discussions. Maintaining each leagues conference identity is part of the conversation, he said.
Were really interested in playing a regional schedule, Spear said. Its huge for fans. Its huge for travel reasons.
It would be huge for stability reasons. With time running out, what Idaho needs more than anything, is some answers.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444