Vandals to Return to Big Sky Conference in 2014-15 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Vandals to Return to Big Sky Conference in 2014-15

Posted: Updated:

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho accepted a membership invitation from the Big Sky Conference for all sports – with the exception of football, which announced its 2013 independent schedule.

"We are pleased to announce the renewal of our partnership with the Big Sky Conference," said University of Idaho M. Duane Nellis, who signed the agreement – at the league's Oct. 16 meeting at Park City, Utah, to move the Vandals to the Big Sky beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

"As one of the six charter members, our relationship with the Big Sky is a long and storied one. Our student-athletes won team titles and individual championships, and were honored for their academic successes during our original 32 years in the league. We look forward to the same on-field and in-the-classroom achievement as we rejoin the Big Sky."

Director of Athletics Rob Spear and Nellis agreed the renewed regional rivalries are a significant piece in the Vandals' conference status, as is maintaining their NCAA Division I status in all sports. They also applauded the Big Sky's commitment to excellence and reputation as a competitive, successful and robust league.

"The Big Sky is a conference rich in its history and successes," Spear said. "Returning to the Big Sky allows us to renew regional and historic rivalries. Some of these rivalries date back more than 100 years and are a significant part of our legacy as Vandals.

"We are appreciative of our time in the Western Athletic Conference but at this point, we believe this is the best move for our programs."

The landscape of the Big Sky Conference translates to less travel for Vandal teams, which reduces time spent out of class as well as travel costs.

The Big Sky embraced the return of the Vandals.

"We welcome The University of Idaho back to the Big Sky, a conference where it excelled athletically and academically for more than 30 years as a flagship member,'' Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton said. "For decades Idaho enjoyed very successful athletics teams across the board in the Big Sky Conference. We expect the Vandals to enjoy success in our league again."

Vandal coaches Don Verlin (men's basketball), Jon Newlee (women's basketball) and Debbie Buchanan (volleyball) endorsed the move.

Said Verlin: ""I'm really excited about the regional rivalries that the Big Sky Conference has to offer. The Big Sky has shown over the last few years that they're competitive on the national scene and they've produced some very good players – Damian Lillard went sixth in the NBA Draft this year."

Said Newlee: "I love the move to the Big Sky. It's going to get us back to our rivalry games and create more fan interest. The league is very strong from a women's basketball standpoint. It's a talented league and obviously I know it well.  I think it's a great move for us and a great move for all of our sports at Idaho."

Said Buchanan: "It's the right move for our athletic department. It's something Rob has been working on for a while. For volleyball it's probably in some ways more competitive than the WAC right now. From a standpoint of student-athlete welfare, our students are going to be in class more and we're not going to be on the road as much. That will also help us from a recruiting standpoint."

As the bulk of the Vandals' sports return to the Big Sky, the Vandal football program will become one of six independent programs in the nation. Also playing as independents are Notre Dame, Navy, Army, BYU and New Mexico State.

Spear announced in August that the Vandals would explore independent football status. Today he announced the 12-game slate, which includes five home and seven road games.

"Over the last several years, we have invested a significant amount in FBS football," said Spear, adding the challenge of putting together an independent schedule is very complex and challenging. "There are many, many moving pieces. In the end, though, I believe we have the balance we need in our football schedule for next year – competitively and financially sound."

As part of the move to independent football status, Spear announced a back-up agreement with the Idaho Famous Potatoes Bowl is in the works.

"A tie-in with a bowl game is a key component for our football program," Spear said. "Not only are bowl games rewards for a season-well played but they are a rallying point and cause for celebration for our alumni, fans and boosters."

  • College SportsCollegeMore>>

  • Inside Eastern Washington Football Sneak Preview

    Inside Eastern Washington Football Sneak Preview

    Before the game SWX will start the festivities with a live pregame show at 11:00 a.m. PT with special ESPN guest Colin Cowherd, all leading up to a behind-the-scenes feature on EWU football at noon. Enjoy the trailer for the Inside Eastern Washington Football special in the video player above!More >>
    Before the game SWX will start the festivities with a live pregame show at 11:00 a.m. PT with special ESPN guest Colin Cowherd, all leading up to a behind-the-scenes feature on EWU football at noon. Enjoy the trailer for the Inside Eastern Washington Football special in the video player above!More >>
  • EWU Volleyball Preview

    EWU Volleyball Preview

    A wealth of talent at every position combined with a trio of determined senior leaders have the Eastern Washington volleyball program ready to make its 2014 campaign a memorable one.More >>
    A wealth of talent at every position combined with a trio of determined senior leaders have the Eastern Washington volleyball program ready to make its 2014 campaign a memorable one.More >>
  • Spokesman's Jim Allen On EWU Football

    Spokesman's Jim Allen On EWU Football

    Spokesman-Review Eastern Washington University beat writer Jim Allen joined SWX's John Collett in the Fasteners Sports Studio to talk about Eagle football with the program's earliest and most prominent start quickly approaching.More >>
    Spokesman-Review Eastern Washington University beat writer Jim Allen joined SWX's John Collett in the Fasteners Sports Studio to talk about Eagle football with the program's earliest and most prominent start quickly approaching.
    More >>
  • IdahoIdahoMore>>

  • Vandals Defense Shines In Second Scrimmage

    Vandals Defense Shines In Second Scrimmage

    The Vandal defense created five turnovers and recorded nine sacks while the offense scored 12 touchdowns and two field goals, leaving Idaho head coach Paul Petrino feeling like his team is more consistent on both sides of the football after Idaho’s second fall scrimmage on Saturday.More >>
    The Vandal defense created five turnovers and recorded nine sacks while the offense scored 12 touchdowns and two field goals, leaving Idaho head coach Paul Petrino feeling like his team is more consistent on both sides of the football after Idaho’s second fall scrimmage on Saturday.More >>
  • Idaho Named No. 3, EWU No. 7 In Preseason Big Sky Volleyball Poll

    Idaho Named No. 3, EWU No. 7 In Preseason Big Sky Volleyball Poll

    In a vote by the league's head volleyball coaches, Idaho State and Northern Arizona were selected as co-favorites to win the 2014 Big Sky Conference title.More >>
    In a vote by the league's head volleyball coaches, Idaho State and Northern Arizona were selected as co-favorites to win the 2014 Big Sky Conference title.More >>
  • Petrino Runs 160 Plays In Idaho's First Scrimmage

    Petrino Runs 160 Plays In Idaho's First Scrimmage

    Saturday, August 9 2014 5:53 PM EDT2014-08-09 21:53:04 GMT
    There may have been ups and downs during the University of Idaho's first scrimmage of the fall but there are some aspects that, no matter the moment, are improved – speed, talent and depth.More >>
    There may have been ups and downs during the University of Idaho's first scrimmage of the fall but there are some aspects that, no matter the moment, are improved – speed, talent and depth.
    More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and SWXRN. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.