University Of Idaho Weighing Options After Sun Belt Drops Vandals

Mar 1, 2016

Credit Idaho Vandals / Facebook

University of Idaho's football team will leave the Sun Belt Conference after the 2017 season.

The conference announced Tuesday that it is dropping the Vandals.

UI President Chuck Staben says he is disappointed by the Sun Belt's decision. Officials for the university say the school will decide whether to play an independent schedule or accept an invitation from the Big Sky Conference for the 2018 season.

UI has struggled for years to find a permanent conference home in the FBS ranks.

A founding member of the Sun Belt, Idaho was in the conference from 2001-04. The Vandals were a member of the Western Athletic Conference from 2005-12. The WAC then dropped football.

UI was independent for the 2013 season before returning to the Sun Belt in 2014.

Officials with the university released a statement earlier today addressing the Sun Belt's decision:

"The University of Idaho is analyzing its options for football affiliation following the Sun Belt Conference’s decision to move forward with a 10-team league after the 2017 football season.
  “We are disappointed by the Sun Belt’s decision,” said Chuck Staben, UI president. “But we are optimistic about the options before us and we are continuing to diligently consider our future affiliation as an opportunity to find the stability and full participation we have not experienced in the Sun Belt. We will make a decision in the coming months.”
  This decision comes from the Sun Belt 10 days before its previously announced deadline of March 10 when it said league presidents would vote to determine whether or not to keep UI in the conference.  UI made a presentation to the Sun Belt in mid-February, at the conference’s request, to outline UI’s value to the conference.
  UI will now evaluate whether to play an independent schedule or accept an invitation from the Big Sky Conference for the fall 2018 season.
  “The University of Idaho will continue to assess how to provide the best experience for our student-athletes and fans,” Staben said. “Football is an important part of the college experience. A strong, stable athletic program complements the university’s great academic programs, enhances the student experience and engages our alumni and fans.”" - University of Idaho press release