The Idaho Vandals will not be without a football conference for long.
Idaho, which will play the 2013 season as an independent, plans to join the Sun Belt as a football-only member in 2014, Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear told the Idaho Statesman on Monday.
"There's a sense of relief, but we have a lot of work to do to get this program where it needs to be facility-wise. This is a positive step for sure,'' Spear said.
Spear has repeatedly said football independence was not a long-term solution. But the move to independence allowed Idaho to buy time for the college football conference landscape to sort itself out.
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And that's what happened.
The Sun Belt, which decided last year that it was content with 10 football members and 12 overall, lost additional teams to Conference USA. The league has eight football members and 10 overall for 2013-14.
Multiple media outlets reported Monday that the Sun Belt will add FCS powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State (a combined nine national championships between them) as full members in 2014.
New Mexico State football will join Idaho in the league in 2014, Spear said. With 12 football teams, the Sun Belt can host a championship game.
"A football championship game takes on a little different flavor or color in that the postseason has changed," said Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, referencing college football's new playoff and bowl system. "By 2014, the Sun Belt may be one of the only conferences that isn't doing a football championship game."
The Vandals must gain approval from the State Board of Education - and get an official invitation from the league. The board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. MDT Wednesday in Moscow.
In August, the board approved the school's move to football independence. At that meeting, Spear and Idaho President Duane Nellis told the board it was a temporary move and that Idaho would try to get into a league.
Being in a conference will help the football program in several ways, Spear said. The biggest advantages are stability, having eight conference games on the schedule each season, the ability to share conference revenue and bowl alliances.
Idaho was a football-only member of the Sun Belt from 2001 to 2005 before joining the WAC. The Vandals' other programs will join the Big Sky on July 1, 2014, Spear said.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph