Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton may get a long-standing wish granted before he retires this summer, but he’s also willing to wait.
The Idaho Vandals got the news Tuesday that their football-only membership in the Sun Belt would not be extended past the 2017 season, leaving them with two options — forge ahead as an independent in the Football Bowl Subdivision, or make the unprecedented move to the Football Championship Subdivision in the Big Sky.
Fullerton has extended invitations to Idaho multiple times, the most recent expiring May 4. But he said it’s not a drop-dead date.
“Our interest is no secret,” Fullerton said Wednesday. “We were surprised at the timing, thought the vote would come next week. But the presidents will get together at the (conference) basketball tournament, and we’ll definitely discuss expansion. I understand it’s a difficult situation, and we’ll be very, very patient. We know if it takes longer, it’s not because they’re trying to play a game with us.”
Idaho’s other sports moved into the Big Sky in 2014, and football could follow, coming back to the league it played in from 1965-95. It would force the Vandals to reduce their scholarship count from 85 to 63, a process that has been discussed. Fullerton said there isn’t a set plan should Idaho move to the Big Sky, but said “from what we’ve discussed, their path forward makes a lot of sense,” adding any drastic transition “would be non-existent.”
“I think the Big Sky is a great choice for them, and it’s not just a personal thing,” Fullerton said. “I think of the type of institution they are, they fit, the geographic fit is much better. I understand the political realities of other parts of the state with more economic drivers. It’s hard to try to play the same game in Moscow they do in (Boise).”
At the Big Sky basketball tournament next week in Reno, the earlier than expected decision by the Sun Belt will help the Big Sky begin to have more in-depth discussions on Idaho, and possibly New Mexico State, figuring out potential divisions and more.
“We’ll start figuring out how they might fit exactly, start to flesh that out and move forward with a plan if it does happen,” Fullerton said.