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
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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!
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)
Idaho State: $612,053 (2016), $683,380 (2015)
Idaho: $1,914,700 (2016), $1,531,933 (2015)
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.
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)
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.