The University of Idaho released the 82-page report done by Collegiate Consulting for President Chuck Staben this week. Here's the link to the page with the report, which is an automatic PDF download, linked there. The report, which was supplied to Staben before he made the decision to drop Idaho to FCS on April 28th, offers a fascinating insight into how Idaho was looking at this decision.
After showing the data and listing pros and cons of each option, Collegiate Consulting doesn't offer a recommendation for one course of action. However, at the end, there's a five-year Pro-forma planned out. The plan calls for modest raises across the board for every coach and administrator as well as gradual spending increases. That information seems to indicate a plan for the Big Sky and FCS without directly saying so.
Besides that formality, there's a ton of information nuggets in the piece and oh boy do they say a lot.
Idaho fans overwhelmingly wanted to stay in FBS.
The section near the end titled "Football Planning Study Draft" is a series of power-points that have results from a series of interviews from "a cross-section of of the University's constituents, including top donors, Board members, alumni and parents".
How many interviews did Collegiate Consulting and the University of Idaho conduct in a month-long process? 12. Yes, twelve.
But even in those 12, there were some strong opinions about staying FBS.
There's other statements in the report about how FCS is a last resort and it would be a bad financial move without the revenues that come in via being FBS.
A paradox can be found under "Idaho Athletics Top Strengths" where the top two listed are "good current athletic director" and "quality of current presidential leadership", especially since the third listing under "Idaho Athletics Challenges Or Concerns" is "lack of vision".
The report spends 60 pages on data for the Mountain West and Conference USA, despite a 0% chance Idaho joins those leagues.
Besides the data being incomplete from the private schools of those leagues (Rice, Grand Canyon and Seattle), it does offer some financial information.
Even ignoring obvious geography, Idaho is far behind CUSA and the Mountain West in almost every financial stat. The only areas favorable to Idaho are academics and endowment. But on page 63, the point of the previous 60 pages is rendered moot in two paragraphs.
Mountain West Conference
Collegiate Consulting had multiple conversations with MWC stakeholders, who insisted on anonymity, and everyone stated "there is not currently a scenario in which Idaho would be invited to join the MWC." The idea was floated, "what if Idaho, were willing to pay a premium with regard to initiation fee", and individuals contacted said this would not make a difference based on the goals of the MWC. The Mountain West appears happy with its current membership, and unless someone would bring strong credentials to the table in terms of possible, and significant, revenue increases, it is doubtful the league would support expansion.
Collegiate Consulting had multiple conversations with C-USA stakeholders, who insisted on anonymity, and everyone stated "there is not currently a scenario in which Idaho would be invited to join the C-USA." The idea was floated, "what if Idaho were willing to pay a premium with regard to initiation fee", and individuals contacted said this would not make a difference based the goals of the C-USA.
While the last sentence of the Mountain West section could lead to something down the road, it shuts the door for Idaho. It's just not happening.
Of course, on page 73, one interviewee says the Mountain West isn't happening because of Boise State. That leaves the WAC, which leads to an old pipe dream.
There's an NCAA bylaw which could allow the WAC to return as an FBS conference.
On page 62, the report has a section labeled "Conference Notes", which includes this NCAA bylaw.
NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.1
Eligibility for Reclassification - Before a Football Championship Subdivision institution may apply for reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the institution must receive a bona fide invitation for membership from a Football Bowl Subdivision conference or a conference that previously met the definition of a Football Bowl Subdivision conference.
The WAC compliance officer confirmed that if they got eight football-playing schools, even if they're all FCS, they could join FBS as the revived WAC. The WAC certainly fits the description at the end of a league that "previously met the definition of a Football Bowl Subdivision conference".
Bowl tie-ins, CFB Playoff revenue distribution and TV rights would make the process a lean one at times, but it's possible. It's still a 1% chance to happen, even if UT-Rio Grande Valley would be on board as you'd have to find a few more members to join up.
In an "Oh, By The Way" moment, it's revealed that North Dakota State and South Dakota State could be joining the Missouri Valley Conference as full members.
"Conference Notes" strikes again! Still on page 62 when discussing about a possible WAC revival, it talks about two potential
North Dakota State and South Dakota State have stated publicly they do not have an interest in moving to FBS. However, it appears from discussions with each school there is not an interest in the WAC, should it reinstate football or go with a combined WAC/Big Sky option. As a side note, there has been strong speculation that both institutions could be invited to join the Missouri Valley Conference as a full member, not just the MVFC.
Both Dakota State schools are currently members of the non-football Summit League while playing football in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which is not directly affiliated with the Missouri Valley Conference.
Getting both schools, which have solid athletics and would be a benefit to the Valley, could be seen as a preemptive move if Wichita State decided the leave.
Funny how realignment pieces can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Speaking of which.
Three years ago, in an effort to save WAC Football, there was an idea about a hybrid FCS/FBS super-league with the Big Sky Conference
The "Conference Notes" section is the gift that keeps on giving. From page 63.
Big Sky Conference/Western Athletic Conference
Three years ago, Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton and WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd visited about the possibility of combining the two conferences, and having part of the league participate in FBS and the remainder in FCS for football. The idea did gain some interest, but was ultimately shot down. However, there could be an opportunity to rekindle these discussions. Here is a possible scenario should it gain traction:
FBS – Idaho, New Mexico State, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota, South Dakota, Cal Poly and Northern Arizona (8 teams).
FCS – Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Portland State, UC-Davis, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Northern Colorado (7 teams). If they can meet the academic criteria and budget criteria, and have an interest in "moving up" to FBS, they certainly would be considered.
North Division – Montana, Montana State, North Dakota, South Dakota, Eastern Washington, Portland State, Idaho State, Seattle University and Idaho (9 teams).
South Division – Sacramento State, Southern Utah, New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, Weber State, Utah Valley, Grand Canyon State, UTRGV and CSU Bakersfield (9 teams).
Fullerton has talked about an FCS/FBS league for years with his members, but the surprise here is that it was talked about as a merger with the WAC.
The problem there is the same problem that killed a Conference USA/Mountain West merger around the same time in that the NCAA would only allow one auto-bid from the league.
The scenario includes South Dakota, which spurned North Dakota and the Big Sky at the 11th hour to join the MVFC and Summit League in 2010.
And how could we leave this out from page 71.
One Interviewee Said Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson "Isn't Qualified To Be A Dog Catcher"
I guess having a football team in two conferences run by Benson didn't leave a good impression on Vandal fans.