Explaining Idaho to the Big Sky with rap music, plus analysis or whatever

Below is about 800 words analyzing the reason I think Idaho decided so hastily and definitively to put football in the Big Sky.

For the tl;dr crowd please refer to this Lil’ Dicky video that does a better job of explaining it than my post.

The character key below the video will help you make better sense of it:

Idaho president Chuck Staben – Lil Dicky
Big Sky Commish Doug Fullerton – Fetty Wap
Sun Belt Conference – People in big houses telling Lil Dicky to screw off at the beginning of the video
Incoming Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams – Old lady who lets them film in her dope house
Big Sky presidents – T-Pain, Car dealership, club owner, boat owner, restaurant owner, ice cream truck owner, cousin Greg with the Netflix login
Idaho AD Rob Spear – Rich Homie Quan
Idaho SBOE – People like Kevin Durant and Mark Cuban at the end of the video on the hook also supporting the cause of saving that money

– – – – – – – –

Rob Spear and Paul Petrino sat on opposite sides of the prez and said all of the right things. The Big Sky? Duh, of course it’s the right move.

Both men made clear to the media their support and even excitement for Idaho’s impending drop to FCS in 2018.

Except, it was evident any such excitement was clearly manufactured by the man sitting in the middle.

Because, here is one thing I’m sure of based on my presence around the athletic department the last five years and from what I’ve been hearing from people in the know: Staben took control of Idaho’s chaotic conference situation from Spear and made the decision himself to take us out of the FBS arms race.

Idaho is Paul Petrino’s first head coaching job of his career and a job he took after nearly 20 years as an assistant at the FBS level. Under no logical circumstances would Petrino be “excited” to see that body of work devalued with a drop to the FCS, where very few coaches have been able to make successful jumps back to the FBS. For example, Craig Bohl won back-to-back-to-back national championships at North Dakota State and only received enough interest to land the Wyoming job.

And then there’s Spear, who has been working for 12 years to navigate Idaho through conference instability. I had a good working relationship and he’d talk openly with me about the most difficult things facing Idaho. I can believe that Spear would support this decision after careful consideration of options. But if he truly had a plan of action for two years of independence on the table to wait out conference realignment then I would have a hard time believing he had much to do with this decision being made on the Big Sky’s deadline.

Surprisingly, though, it was Spear who defended the move to me by declaring the rules of the game changed in FBS with the facilities arm races and cost of attendance stipends for athletes.

Staben then went on about Idaho’s academic profile and how the football program needs to compliment the school and not the other way around.

Translation: “I’m just going to get this shit over with right now.”

It’d be unfair to say Staben is the type of President who doesn’t care about athletics. He understands the importance they can play to a university. Let’s call him a realist.

Because here’s what’s going to happen: The university is going to save a crap ton of money.

There comes a point where whatever added revenue that comes with FBS just isn’t worth it anymore.

It figures Idaho will field a football team this season more than capable of going to a bowl game and demonstrating why FBS is the right path.

And then there’s the numbers.

For this exercise I’m going to use Idaho State University’s finances as somewhat of a look into what Idaho’s future could look like. ISU is a Big Sky member in the state of Idaho. It’s relevant!

Here is my source. 

Total athletic Program Revenue

Idaho State: $3,458,538 (2016), $3,212,119 (2015)
Idaho: $8,459,250 (2016), $8,386,487 (2015)

Department wide game guarantee revenue
Idaho State: $1,367,500 (2016), $1,135,500 (2015)
Idaho: $2,238,600 (2016), $1,785,000 (2015)

NCAA/Conference/Tournament revenue
Idaho State: $612,053 (2016), $683,380 (2015)
Idaho: $1,914,700 (2016), $1,531,933 (2015)

Football guarantees
Idaho State: $915,500 (2016), $650,000 (2015)
Idaho: $2,100,000 (2016), $1,680,000 (2015)

Okay, so that covers the loss of revenue. Now let’s talk about how much less Idaho State spends on its program.

Football expenditures
Idaho State: $2,681,902 (2016), $2,546,722 (2015)
Idaho: $5,601,639 (2016), $5,182,454 (2015)

Department wide Travel expenses
Idaho State: $980,000 (2016), $970,845 (2015)
Idaho: $2,141,110 (2016), $2,478,247 (2015)

Department wide coaching salaries
Idaho State: $2,260,842 (2016), $2,077,182 (2015)
Idaho: $3,117,041 (2016), $2,746,634 (2015)

Athletic student aid expenditure
Idaho State: $2,418,211 (2016), $2,485,836 (2015)
Idaho: $3,661,829 (2016), $3,321,334 (2015)

Administration expenditure
Idaho State: $2,662,893 (2016), $2,600,538 (2015)
Idaho: $4,148,600 (2016), $4,385,857 (2015)

Conference membership and dues
Idaho State: $48,000, Big Sky all sports member 2016
Idaho: $644,100, Sun Belt football member, Big Sky non-football 2016

And here’s what an independent season might look like

Independent season, 2013 with other sports in WAC
Game guarantees: $3,344,000
NCAA, conference revenue: $834,318
Travel expense: $2,385,190, jump of about $400,000 from the previous season.

Idaho State, Boise State and Idaho all will receive the same amount of state funding for athletics in 2016 ($2,752,200). Meanwhile, Idaho’s use of a subsidy from the university itself has jumped to an estimated $1,399,700 in 2016, compared to just $812,800 in 2014. Idaho State reports it’ll need $879,700 from the university in 2016.

Boise State, by the way, only asked for $430,200 from the university in 2016.

When we talk about college sports amounts in the hundreds of thousands don’t seem significant. But we’re talking about a state that chronically under funds education and is run by fiscally conservative, god lovin’ republicans. Cutting costs is what they love to do. This is no exception, especially while Boise State is printing money with its television deal with ESPN.

Idaho will probably save around $250,000 on “media payments” to the head football coach when it makes its next hire. For now, Petrino will stay at about $415,000 per season through 2020. I also think he’s going to jump at the first FBS opening that comes his way should he take Idaho to a bowl game this season.

Petrino’s base salary of $178,526 is in line with what Big Sky coaches such as Beau Baldwin and Bob Stitt make. I would imagine the next Idaho coach would not receive a media payment.

You may also be wondering, how does this affect Title IX and women’s sports? It doesn’t, right now. I wrote about it here. Spear said during the press conference he has no plans to eliminate a sport.

And then there’s the Events Center. Idaho is waiting on a final few gifts before moving forward with the public phase of fundraising at some point this year. I imagine that also includes sponsorship investments have been secured as well. I wrote in December about some of the faces involved and the process.

I’m probably not good at hiding my biases but I’m withholding my overall opinion on the move for now. Feel free to Tweet at me and bitch about it.



, , ,

8 responses to “Explaining Idaho to the Big Sky with rap music, plus analysis or whatever”

  1. RJ Avatar

    Very creative analysis!

    In the long run I think more universities will make this move (Eastern Michigan for example), but I still don’t like it. I’m trying to be optimistic and hope that the Big 12 expansion will cause a 2nd wave of realignment in the 2nd tier conferences that somehow saves us, but realistically that won’t happen. Even if it did your analysis seems to indicate that if we were presented with an opportunity Pres. Staben wouldn’t go for it. We’re stuck with the shame and embarrassment of being the first school to go from 1A to 1AA.

    I also seem to remember that Pres. Staben was involved in the whole “flagship controversy” as well, as it was happening right around the time when he was hired.


  2. PB Avatar

    You have way to many assumptions here. Idaho State has a worse winning percentage over the last 15 years at the FCS level than Idaho has had at the FBS level. They are the doormat of the Big Sky and FCS. Why would Idaho bring their expenditures down to Idaho St. level when ISU have had such got awful records spending that amount of money? That right there tells you that Idaho will not save that amount of money unless they just want to completely abandon the football team like ISU has.


    1. Sean Kramer Avatar

      Thank you for the comment! That’s a fair point, but as I alluded to is just a generality of what Idaho’s spending could look like at the Big Sky level. What we do know is that Idaho will, absolutely, cut its expenditures, what isn’t known is by how much. Either way, Idaho will save money from this move.


      1. Sassy Avatar

        Admittedly, I didn’t read the whole post in depth, so forgive me if you’ve addressed this point, but it seems like Idaho may not SAVE money at the FCS, but SPEND less money, while still operating a deficit. Idaho State also requires subsidies to balance the budget, just like Idaho right now. My thought is I’d rather try to balance the budget at the highest level than the FCS level.


  3. Rick Avatar

    Excellent analysis. What I didn’t see is discussion of how that money is spent. Football at any school is income that is almost always spent back on football and often in the most ridiculous ways. In no other department of a university are staff members and families costs covered to travel to away games. I’ve known several friends around the area who have had travel costs covered to away football games because “the money is there.” A few schools do give back to the university as a whole, for example, I think Georgia is one. There are maybe 4 or 5 others at most out of 140 or so in FBS. Yes, at many schools, football income is used to fund women’s sports and other lower revenue men’s programs but not at Idaho where the subsidy from the student fund covers those other programs. (I don’t know but that is probably why Spear says there are no plans to cut women;s programs – that would surely raise some noise since it comes from the university not football…) I have always been in favor of UI playing FBS for the bump in “property value” it gives the rest of the university in terms of the company we keep, but that never turned out to be true for UI football. In fact, football performance dropped so low our program actually hurts our perception in places outside of Moscow. That is the real problem – football and its lack of performance hurts our reputation. The university is strong in all other ways, for example this blog has pointed out how strong our women’s teams are, and the student experience at UI is excellent. All that is overshadowed by our bad reputation as being the doormat of FBS. I wish donors would have stepped up and made the football program work at FBS levels but they didn’t. What is said is true about digging a hole. It seems time to stop digging. I hate it but Joe Vandal isn’t Peter Pan.


    1. Sean Kramer Avatar

      From my experience, most of the money generated goes back to cover operating costs for the athletic department as a whole. For example, the money Idaho is getting for getting pummeled by UW and WSU is enough to cover the operating costs for many of the olympic sports. With state and school subsidies, the budget is designed to break even.


  4. Chuck Staben owes us more explanations, especially if he is right. – Tubs at The Club Avatar

    […] Budget cuts are going to have to start coming from somewhere, and Staben casually slid those questions down to the athletic director who didn’t make this decision in the first place. […]


  5. UI wants more state, school funds to subsidize Big Sky drop – Tubs at The Club Avatar

    […] long-term vision here is clear: Stabilize football spending. This will come when scholarship costs drop, coaching salary costs drop and travel costs drop. The […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: