The University of Idaho will join the Sun Belt Conference as a football-only member in 2014. The Idaho State Board of Education unanimously approved a motion Wednesday to give the school approval, and soon after, the league announced the addition of the Vandals.
After the approval was given, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear wrote on his Twitter account: "I want to the thank our State Board of Education and Regent of the UI for approving football membership in the Sun Belt #Govandals"
The school noted there will be a decreased reliance on playing road games against high-level FBS programs (Idaho plays at Florida State and Ole Miss in 2013), and that being aligned in a conference will help balance the athletic budget. Idaho will seek to play nonconference games in the western United States and will not need to pay any sort of exit or entrance fees.
"Truly, this is helping us move from greater vulnerability to more stability, allowing us to remain an FBS program," Idaho president Duane Nellis said.
The conference also announced Wednesday the additions of New Mexico State, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State for the 2014 season. The league will play with eight teams in 2013, but commissioner Karl Benson told the Idaho Statesman on Monday it likely would seek to add four teams to create a 12-team league, which would enable it to have a conference championship game.
Idaho will be in the West division in the Sun Belt, along with New Mexico State, Texas State, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette. Commissioner Karl Benson said the league will play eight or nine conference games in 2014, something that will be discussed in a meeting of SBC athletic directors in May.
Though Moscow is an geographic outlier in the league, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said travel will not be an issue, noting that the Vandals played in Ohio, twice in Louisiana and North Carolina in 2012.
Idaho was a football-only member of the Sun Belt from 2001-04 before joining the WAC. The WAC will no longer have football next season, during which the Vandals will play as an independent.