All seemed right with the Idaho Vandals football program in 2009.
Then in its ninth season as a Football Bowl Subdivision program, Idaho was coming off a 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl, had a coach everybody loved and seemed to be settled into its new home in the Western Athletic Conference.
How things have changed in three years.
In 2012, the Vandals have won just 10 of their last 28 games, including a 4-11 mark over their last 15. But even more importantly, Idaho has lost its football home. The WAC announced earlier this summer that it would not field a football conference in 2013 after several members bolted to other conferences, including Utah State and San Jose State to the Mountain West.
Idaho announced a month ago that it would stay at the FBS level as an independent in hopes of finding a future home. It’s a daunting task for any team to play as an independent. Only four teams are currently listed as independent in the FBS – Notre Dame, BYU, Navy and Army.
None of those teams have trouble filling out a schedule. But Idaho probably won’t be that lucky.
Wyoming travels to Moscow, Idaho, to take on the Vandals at 3 p.m. Saturday. It’s part of a home-and-home between the two teams that will see Idaho play in Laramie next fall.
“Getting a schedule is the first challenge in being in this situation,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said Monday. “In the short term, it can give you a chance to make things happen. Scheduling is one of the challenges, yes.”
Akey also said he wasn’t part of the decision-making process to stay at the FBS level.
The only other choice for Idaho would have been to drop back down to the Football Championship Subdivision level, but Akey feels Idaho’s future is as an FBS school, regardless of the current situation.
“The opportunity to stay Division I FBS in football brought about the necessity to go independent status so that we can still be available, and hopefully, as things reallocate, we can get ourselves in a situation where we can get into a conference,” Akey said.
One conference the Vandals would love to be a part of is the Mountain West.
Idaho has made no secret that it would jump at an invitation to the MW. This summer it appeared to be a possibility, but the MW elected to invite Utah State and San Jose State to get to 10 members for football and nine for basketball for the foreseeable future.
The MW says there are no immediate plans for further expansion, but the world of college athletics is an ever-changing landscape. At least Idaho hopes so right now.
“Certainly we’d love to be in that conference,” Akey said. “We’ve got a good history there. We split with Colorado State, we split with San Diego State, we got UNLV pretty good here. I like playing those games, playing teams like us from this side of the country. We recruit against each other.”
Location: Moscow, Idaho
Conference: Western Athletic
Stadium: Kibbie Dome (16,000)
Record: 0-3 overall (0-0 WAC)
Series: 4-1 Wyoming (last meeting 1999, 28-13 UW)
Coach: Robb Akey (19-46, sixth season; same overall)
Top Players: QB Dominique Blackman (Jr., 6-5, 254); WR Ryan Bass (Sr., 5-10, 213); WR Justin Veltung (Sr., 5-11, 183); C Mike Marboe (So., 6-2, 296); G A.J. Jones (Sr., 6-1, 288); DE Vince Keener (Jr., 6-4, 263); MLB Su’a Tuala (Sr., 6-0, 225); LB Conrad Scheidt (Sr., 6-1, 234); CB Aaron Grymes (Sr., 5-11, 183); P Bobby Cowan (Sr., 6-5, 229).
About the Vandals: Idaho has one interception in each of its first three games, the first time that’s happened since 1998. … 11 Idaho receivers have caught passes this season. … Idaho didn’t allow a sack against LSU last week. … Idaho is 4-3 against Mountain West teams since 1999. The wins have come against San Diego State (2002), Colorado State (2009), SDSU (2009) and UNLV (2010). All four wins have come in Moscow. … Idaho is averaging 10 points a game this season.
Cowboys Game Day
Game: Wyoming (0-3) at Idaho (0-3)
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho
Radio: KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie; KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne