The University of Idaho Vandals appear ready to do something that nobody in the NCAA has ever done: According to multiple reports, the university will announce today that the football team will make the move from the FBS division to FCS, likely to join the Big Sky Conference.
The move was precipitated by the Sun Belt Conference announcing on March 1st that they would not be renewing the football-only contract for the Vandals after the 2017 season.
So, what does this mean for Cougar fans?
The two teams are scheduled to play against each other this upcoming September, which will not change. Because the Vandals wont be moving conferences until after the 2017 season and they aren't on WSU's schedule from 2018-2020, this isn't going to affect the two schools in the immediate term. WSU already has an FCS opponent scheduled for each of the next four years.
However, with the Vandals moving down, a potential payout to Idaho for a scheduled game would cost less, meaning we're probably more likely to see the Battle of the Palouse happen more often going forward.
The Vandals will return to a conference that they had great success in from 1965-1995 before leaving and struggling tremendously. The 3.7 average wins per season since making the move to FBS was not enough for a conference to fall in love with them.
After the '95 season when the Vandals left the Big Sky, they joined the Big West from the '96-2000 seasons. The Vandals then went to the Sun Belt from '01-'04 before joining the Western Athletic Conference from '05-'12. After the 2012 season, they were Independent for a year before joining the Sun Belt again in 2015.
The Vandals have games scheduled against Florida, Penn State, LSU, and Indiana among others after the 2017 season. It is unknown if those games will be played, but Idaho is scheduled to make over $1 million per game.
With the drop, many players will lose their scholarship as the scholarship limit will decrease from 85 to 63 players as well. Head Coach Paul Petrino's contract also includes a clause that allows the university to re-evaluate if Idaho changes conference.