The question and answer period following UI President Chuck Staben's announcement Thursday that the football program will move from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the Football Championship Subdivision and join the Big Sky Conference in 2018 left nearly as many of the former as the latter.

The most pressing is how Idaho plans to transition from 85 football scholarships to 63, the FCS maximum that the team has to reach to be postseason eligible in 2018.

Athletic Director Rob Spear referred to a "transition plan," and coach Paul Petrino expressed his confidence in that plan, though the details of it were not specified.

Spear, in his 12th year as AD and whose contract was recently extended through 2020, told the Daily News on Friday that the football team plans to graduate 24 seniors on scholarship this year, and "will reduce the number we sign for next year. The two-year window will allow us to phase to 63."

If a similar number graduate the following year, the program can get to 63 by signing 14 or 15 to scholarships next year, the following year and from then on.

As far as Title IX compliance is concerned, Spear said the reduction in scholarships "actually strengthens our compliance because compliance is based on proportionality with undergraduate enrollment. Right now it is 56 percent male, 44 percent female. Our participation numbers in athletics are close. For scholarships we spend a little more on men and the reduction will help our compliance with dollars spent."

Spear said Friday that "we will need to have discussions," with those schools UI has scheduled "money games" with as far out as 2022, adding that "some contracts have provisions addressing the change in classification."

The Vandals as an FCS program are a less attractive nonconference option to FBS teams, particularly those in the Power 5 conferences because while scheduling Idaho may be viewed as easy opportunity at a home victory - UI has just two road wins the past five seasons, and only one under Petrino - it does almost nothing for the home team's strength of schedule, which is taken into consideration by the bowl and College Football Playoff committees.

This is also why the payouts are likely to drop. As an FBS school - one that hasn't had much success on the field - Idaho has at least some leverage in terms of scheduling. As an FCS school, Idaho would need those money games much more than the larger schools would need to schedule them.

Idaho currently has major money road games scheduled at Florida (2018), Penn State (2019), LSU (2020) and Indiana (2021-22) - all with payouts of more than $1 million.

According to a report from FBschedules.com that includes these contract details, the deal with Florida does not include a stipulation regarding a drop to FCS, but does state that the Gators would have to pay damages of $1.2 million for breach of contract. The same goes for Penn State ($1.45 million in damages).

The contract with LSU, which is to pay Idaho $1.4 million, includes a condition that both participants must be members of Division 1A at least 24 months prior to the date the game is scheduled. Otherwise, either team - in this case it would be LSU - can cancel the game without penalty as long as it gives reasonable notice to the other team.

The Hoosiers, expected to pay Idaho a total of $2.5 million for the two games, and the Vandals can cancel the games without penalty as long as both parties agree in writing. There is no stipulation regarding a drop to FCS.

Spear said Friday that the FCS move will not impact any of the Idaho football coaches' contracts, nor any of the contracts of any other coaches. Petrino has a base salary of approximately $400,000.

The AD has indicated in the past that he would ideally like Idaho to remain at the FBS level, but only if the team was in a conference. On Thursday, Staben called competing as an FBS Independent "irresponsible" and Friday Spear had a similar stance.

"Independence is just too difficult and puts your coaches and student-athletes in a tough position," he said. "At the end of the day if you can't fund the expectations then you need to look at some other options."

Spear then hinted at the chance of more changes to the college football landscape, noting that, at the moment, Power 5 schools have nearly all of the control, putting all of the other conferences in a reactionary mode. And if there is a shift in the landscape, Idaho football could be on the move again.

"Intercollegiate athletics is the next housing bubble," Spear said. "Schools outside the (Power 5 leagues) are leveraged in an unhealthy way and I am confident there will be additional changes over the next several years, and the University of Idaho will be positioned to take advantage of these."


Michael-Shawn Dugar can be reached at (208) 883-4629, by email to mdugar@dnews.com or on Twitter to @MikeDugar.

Recommended for you