“You don’t want to be the first school to do this.”

Idaho’s decided to live in its own private Idaho.

Idaho will become what is believed to be the first program in history to decide to move down from FBS to the lower-division FCS beginning in 2018, CBS Sports was told Wednesday afternoon by a source close to the situation.

The move comes after the Sun Belt Conference exercised an option on March 1 to drop Idaho and New Mexico State from the league and go with a 10-team conference beginning in 2018.

Idaho then had to make a choice where it wanted to continue playing football. The only FBS option was to compete as an independent where it had previously spent a season in 2013. Without a conference tie, that option is not financially viable for the school.

A source told CBS Sports on Wednesday that the deal is done: Idaho will begin playing football in the Big Sky Conference in 2018.

If you want a clear sign that this move was overdue, try this out:

While the move enjoys some support in the community, Idaho will lose its FBS branding — playing at the highest level of college football. Idaho students fund football to the tune of $127 per semester in their tuition payments.

While that’s not as costly as some student subsidies in other conferences, it’s enough at Idaho. The athletic department will save money having to fund fewer scholarships (63 as opposed to 85), but a source told CBS Sports that the program will lose money overall[Emphasis added.]

So even moving down a division doesn’t stop the money bleed.  And worse for the program, moving down to the FCS level means lower payments for offering itself up as a sacrificial cupcake to P5 schools.  Still, and considering the ego that has to be swallowed in deciding to retreat like this, you have to figure the economics were extremely compelling.  In this day and age, that’s hardly surprising.

Idaho may be the first to relegate itself, but I doubt it’ll be the last.


Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

25 responses to ““You don’t want to be the first school to do this.”

  1. There are plenty of others who need to follow Idaho’s lead.


    • Macallanlover

      Exactly right. What is so important about having a football program if it just doesn’t work, financially, or in terms of building enthusiasm at your school? All of the these programs which cannot make it financially in football can still have competitive programs in other sports and “adopt” a D1 football program that can excite them on Saturdays.



    And everyone wants to pay players. So where’s all that money coming from to pay players if you’re not ALA and a few others?


    • Nobody makes a school pay players. If the money isn’t there, don’t.

      What there shouldn’t be is a rule across the board prohibiting the practice. Let the free market sort things out.


      • Visionary

        Disagree. If you don’t have rules, you have chaos, and in this case, more cheating and institutional financial abuse than ever. If student athletes should be paid, so be it, but not in some way that creates more competitive imbalance than we already see.


  3. Russ

    Incredible to me that students still fund football. At the larger schools, shouldn’t it be the other way sround?


  4. 3rdandGrantham

    Well done Idaho for swallowing your pride and making the right decision, instead of passing off even more debt to your students and letting them carry much of the burden for you. It’s akin to a family downsizing or trading in their European import for a Hyundai — sometimes tough sacrifices need to be made instead continuing with an extend and pretend philosophy.

    If its students truly came first, others schools would be smart to follow their lead and also move down to the FCS level. Take Miami U. for example, in which a 2015 graduating senior will have paid just under $4,000 in student fees to subsidize the athletic department; much of that going to football. Ga State students will be responsible for over 90 mil in athletic fees, thanks to their upstart FBS program.

    IMO, if you need just $1 from a student in order to cover the AD budget, something is wrong and you should be forced to make cuts as necessary.


  5. Otto

    Yes more school need to do this and the NCAA need to stop programs from moving up, GSU and Ga. Southern come to mind.


    • As long as they can pay the freight and there’s a D-1 conference willing to take them, why does the NCAA “need” to do anything about it?

      It’s amazing to me that when it comes to sports, for some people there’s no such thing as an antitrust violation.


      • DawgPhan

        most college football fans have never met a problem you couldnt solve with just a few more rules and a little more governance.


      • Otto

        It is no different than High School divisions based on size. If a school doesn’t have the resources to compete they should not be allowed to move up. I am for a more fluid model classifying the divisions which yes could lead to teams being forced to step down. I am also very much against those wanting to level the playing field.


        • It is no different than High School divisions based on size.

          Last time I looked, entry to D-1 isn’t based on enrollment. You’ve got schools as small as Rice and Wake Forest in the same division with behemoths like Texas and FSU.

          What you’re suggesting is a monetary limitation. That ain’t nearly the same. And it’s against the law.


          • Otto

            Stadium size used to be a requirement to be in D1. It could come down to many things student body size, budget, stadium size/average attendance, minimum winning percentage over a multi year span.

            I also disagree that the DOJ should have any impact on what the NCAA decides on satellite camps. The NCAA is a private organization which can make their own rules.


    • PTC DAWG

      Georgia Southern will be just fine.


  6. Go Dawgs!

    Good news, Georgia Tech! We’ve found a solution for your athletic woes!


  7. TomReagan

    Tech left the SEC. Pretty much the same thing.


  8. Cojones

    No one wants to play a team with the name of “Vandals” because of fear they may vandalize the visitors locker room. Why don’t they just change their name to “The Idaho Potatoes” or go Southernese and be called “The Tater Heads”?



    Idaho in the Sunbelt made zero sense….good move by them.


  10. The feature story on HBO’s Real Sports that just premiered a week or so ago focused on the arms race in college sports and specifically looked at the athletic fees being charged at some of these schools.

    I cannot find the full segment on the inter webs but here is the trailer.

    I firmly believe that schools like Idaho, Eastern Michigan etc will be facing this question with their student body, faculty etc. The fact that a tenured Economics professor at Rutgers is using the athletic program’s financials as a teaching subject for his students is fairly subversive.


  11. I just hope Kirby brings us home a title before this whole thing just blows up in our faces. I feel like the days are numbered for my favorite sport.


  12. Recruiting to Moscow is a tough call and playing in the Kibbie Dome is not easy. Good move for Idaho. A large number need to follow suit.