ESPN For Big Sky Is a Lateral Move, Dont Be Fooled

Today is the day so many fans around the Big Sky Conference have been waiting for. The Big Sky announced it will be joining the ESPN family. Time to rejoice! There have been two things most Big Sky fans seem to @ the Conference office about the most, dropping teams and streaming/broadcast. You can check one of those off your list. Got to ask ourselves is ESPN really what we wanted? 

I know, people just spit out their coffee to yell, “Of course we do, you (insert swear word here).” Well, I’m just going to lay out why I for one am very “eh” on the whole ESPN thing. I feel it is a horizontal move being sold to us as a vertical move. Let me explain. 

First I don’t blame the conference office at all for the move. I am on record saying I think the Big Sky is one of the best ran division one conferences. When you get tweets and emails daily about dropping PlutoTV and Root Sports and moving to ESPN, you find the path of least resistance to be appealing to the mob. After all it is what the people think they want, so the move for conference leadership is a win. They look like heros. I totally understand the move and there are some incredible things they negotiated. Like two football games on ESPNU and one hoops game a year. Something not many conference at our level, with our budget can pull off, and the Big Sky was able to. Cemeting itself again as one of the best ran conferences. But lets be honest, 99% of your relationship with this deal will be spent on the ESPN+ system.

The things most people dislike about the Big Sky’s current TV/streaming arrangement is access to Root Sports and quality of PlutoTV streams. I think there is a common misconception that somehow ESPN has a magic wand and all the quality issues are going to be fixed. Idaho State is going to have better camera angles, UC Davis is going to give the JAMM students the boot and bring in professional crew from the bay area and Northern Colorado is going to buy twelve 4k cameras to watch Dylan McCaffery high fiving dad. None of this is going to happen. 

Just like on PlutoTV, the broadcast standards are set by the conference and the individual institutions are in charge of putting on the broadcast. People may hate the Root Sports games because they are hard to get without DirecTV. But, it is no secret the production quality is A+. Why? Because it is a professional crew out of Bellevue,WA. That when they aren’t covering the Big Sky they are covering the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball, and before ESPN ruined college football were the broadcasters of Pac 12 games for Washington and Washington State.

A similar situation takes place at Montana, Montana State, Idaho and Eastern Washington.These schools all have SWX help put on their broadcasts. SWX is a regional digital sub channel network that focuses specifically on sports broadcasts. When SWX isn’t in charge of the production and the actual institutions are, it is noticeable. Just like when KJZZ cover Weber State. They are professionals crews, not employed by the individual insituions. So the quality is that of a proper broadcast, because it is a proper broadcast. Not a stream. It should be noted that Dennis Patchin of SWX was on our podcast and did say he is not a fan of PlutoTV, maybe we will have him on again to discuss in more detail now

ESPN +/3 does not have stricter standards than what we just had on PlutoTV. If you read ESPN’s School productions broadcast manual you can actually see what the bare minimum is.

ESPN MINIMUM EQUIPMENT SPECS
The following equipment is the minimum needed for an ESPN3 Network production.
Cameras
 2 hand held camera
 2 hard camera
Lens
 3 – (14 x 4.3)
 1 – (40x)

  • All “tight” lenses must be of no less than 40x and must include extender feature. (If less than
    40x production must have special approval from ESPN3)
  • All cameras must be 720p or 1080i / 59.4 frames per second
    Replay system (Digital server based)
     Minimum 4 input / 2 output
    Video Switcher (minimums)
     10 inputs
     2 keyers
     1 ME
     8 auxiliary buses for isos, monitors and transmission
  • All switchers must be 720p or 1080i / 59.4 frames per second (minimums)
  • Optional router depending on production needs
    Audio Consoles
     24 inputs
     8 sub mixers
     2 output
  • Additional audio to complement production – camera microphones, crowd microphones
    Video
     All ESPN3 Network telecasts must have video operator on site to handle video needs of
    production. No cameras can be put into auto-iris function at any time.
    Graphics
     All ESPN3 Network productions must have a graphics system capable of supporting the ESPN
    Network graphics package. Most reasonable option: Ross Xpression.

Now does any of this really sound different then the current Southern Utah broadcast? Other than the fancy ESPN graphics that must be used? NO. Because the conferences set the standard of what their member institutions must meet in production quality. This is not going to be like when Idaho was in the Sun Belt. This is going to be the same broadcast just presented to you in an ESPN package.

Go watch our peer conferences around the FCS. St.Francis does not have even C- quality broadcast, nor does Dayton. Heck ask Bobcat fans in 2018 who couldn get stable broadcast from Western Illinois game on ESPN+. It was so bad many resorted to bootlegged Instagram live feeds from fans in attendance. Wetsern Illinois is a member of the Missouri Valley, one of, if not the biggest conference at this level. Small budgets, means small production. ESPN is not the savior, the people that think it is, are going t dissapointed really quick when watching Sac State v San Digeo and the camera is pointed at the sky and you get a paintball highlight from 2007 after a touchdown, but were expecting the same quality of Tulsa v North Texas.

I know I just came across as a debbie downer and that ESPN is evil and PlutoTV is a blessing. PlutoTV was not perfect and ESPN provides a very accessible product to wide audience. I am just trying to temper some peoples expectations. We are not going to have MAC quality broadcasts over night. Why? Because they have multi-million dollar TV deals. Not just the rights to stream their content on ESPN the Ocho.

The Mid-America Conference is set to make 24 million in 2021 from TV Deal with ESPN/ABC. The Big Sky I imagine is going to make next to $0. Why were Idaho’s broadcast so much better in the WAC and Sun Belt? The Money we had to put into production to meet conference broadcast requirements. It was easier in 2017 to put on a better broadcast because Idaho was receiving around $475,000 to $500,000 to put on the productions.

Let us also not forget the lack of interest ESPN has showed in our product of football. Outisde of the FCS playoffs (which they are contractually obligated to televise), they televised less than five games this past spring. When Americas most popular sport was competing with Cornhole, Bowling and World Series of Poker coverage on their six channels, and the FCS brand of football lost. Despite having the rights to 65 of the 84 teams participating this past spring.

Meanwhile what did PlutoTV do for us this spring? They became in essence the hub for FCS coverage. They were the host of all the FCS All-In episodes this spring. Which was an almost bi-weekly check-in from every conference about the season, or a peak into some history in every conference. This seemed to be well received on the twitter verse and FCS Fans Nations’ (the fan hub for FCS) Facebook page. Noteworthy is fact this was all free. It was not behind a paywall.

Now while ESPN+ is techincally behind a paywall, it is 2021. Most peoples cats have subscriptions to ESPN+ or the Disney bundle. I just think PlutoTV was a ready and willing partner to the FCS and specifaclly the Big Sky Conference. But do to a spell of misinformtion about how the broadcasts actually work, took the blunt of the twitter hate for any productions flaws. I was one of them, I wrote a slighlty beer fueled tweet in 2019 during the Idaho vs Central Washington game. Being so furious my feed kept cutting out and i was unable to watch a healthy chunk of the game. I took to twitter at-ing the Big Sky Conference, PlutoTV and even Deputy Commisioner Dan Satter. Claiming this stuff never happened when Idaho was in the Sun Belt and we were on ESPN platform. I was so mad I started to research the issue to write a blog bagging on PlutoTV, Big Sky and FCS as a whole. Turns out I was wrong. It was not PlutoTV or the FCS fault, it would be the same on any platform. The problem was Idaho and in larger degree the Big Sky for not requiring a better product. Thats why it worked for Idaho at Sun Belt and not the Big Sky.

But what is the conference to do? Yes they could require better production standards. That is the obvious answer. But how do you tell a program like Eastern Washington, that is in debates whether to field a football team at all over budget issues, to invest in production quality? Or Schools like Northern Colorado that are trying to just get their facilities to a competetive level in FCS. Individual schools are going to focus on improving product on field and in person expirence before they improve at home expirence. Northern Colorado doesnt make any money from you sitting on your couch and watching the game on ESPN+, so they need to invest in gameday experience. They need fans on campus spending money in the bookstore, at the ticket booth, concessions stands etc. To put it polietly they dont care about the Bobcat fan that is pissy the stream sucks to watch, that makes them 0 dollars. If anything it works in their favor as it entices you to attend the game in person next time. Again, making them money!

ESPN+ does have its benefits. Most sports bars have ESPN+ these days. Making it easier to explain to a bartender in Pocatello, ID how to put on the UC Davis v Weber State game. Rather then saying “you need to download this free app called PlutoTV, and dont worry after the game is over you can use it to watch James Bond or MTV dating shows on repeat.” The ESPN platform puts us in front of many more eyeballs. This is a true statement, we will have way more eyeballs scrolling past our games on their way to find the Wisconsin v Nebraska game. We need to be honest about what our product is and what it isnt. It is a niche viewing expierence. The average breakdown of people watching the Causeway Classi is probably 90% fans of Sac State and UC Davis, 6% other Big Sky fans, 1% FCS Fans, 2% Sacramento area people <1% of random ESPN scrollers. The overwhelming majority of people watching our games will be watching them regardless of the platform they are on. The difference now is we traded in a platform in Pluto that seemed to care about the product, to ESPN which lets just say shows a lack of detail to FCS schools. FCS games on ESPN+ are notoriously mispelled or have the wrong logos or colors. Which at end of the day who cares. But maybe we should?

More voices are becoming louder about making the FCS brand stronger and more respected. While ESPN on the surface does that, it also slaps us in the face more times then not. And while having two games on ESPNU is a huge win, as no other FCS confernce outside of the SWAC has anything like that. We all know it going to be Brawl of the Wild and a flex game. If you are not a Griz or Bobcat youare still not going to be on TV. All it means is the bigger schools will continue to have local broadcast entities like SWX and KJZZ broadcasting the schools with the big budget. Allowing them to not have to invest in production themselves. While the NAU (who has been rarely mentioned because they actually do a fantastic job on NAUTV), SUU, Cal Poly and Idaho State will still have to pay money out of pocket to put on games and increase production quality.

I liked PlutoTV for being unorthodix and the Big Sky seemignly trying to be on cutting edge of whats next for broadcasting. The same things being said about PlutoTV and being an obscure app were said back in 2010 when I used to have to go the SUB on Saturday at 11am to watch Idaho v Virginia on ESPN3 because being on AirVandalGold wifi was only way to get ESPN3. I would have loved to see ESPN be the backbone for all our sports, but have found a way to standout from the crowd for football. The MLS and Concacaf soccer have expiremented with having games live on Twitter, Amazon has been looking to add a sports catalog to Amazon Prime Video and YoutubeTV has created MLS team specific channels in the past if you lived in the area and were available on ESPN+ if not. I would have loved to see the Big Sky make an advancement for the sport and not just become another coat in the coffers of ESPN. The conference slogan is “Expirence Elavated”… this is is a minor elavated expirence, one in which I am confident we will have similiar twitter tiraids about in a few short months when people realized nothing has changed. ESPN is not a silver bullet, it is kicking the can down the road on fixing the true qaulity issue. Hope I am wrong and im sure we will get more information in coming days.

*** As always im not a journalist so just take your gramatical error comments and put em in a bag next to you know whats I give.

Idaho, A Basketball School?

The Big Sky men’s basketball champions are crowned! I couldn’t help but shake one little statistic I heard during last nights broadcast: this was Montana State’s first title game appearance since 2009. If they had pulled it off, it would have been their first title since 1996, making it only the 3rd time in school history they made it to the big dance. This is a school that, admittedly, is not a basketball school. They don’t claim to be, they don’t have a rich basketball history, and in fact most years there’s a running joke about Bobcat basketball! Yet, here they were in the title game.

What about the victor? Eastern Washington University, financially strapped and in the shadow of one of the greatest college hoops dynasties of all-time, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, punched their tickets to the big dance. For the Eagles though, this is more common. They have 9 title game appearances all time. That is the third most in Big Sky history. They will also be playing in the NCAA tournament for the 3rd time in program history, two of the appearances in the past 6 seasons (2015 & 2021). Once again, all this recent success while financially unstable and in the shadows of the Kennel.

Which got me asking myself… Where is Idaho? 

Idaho, a program that clings to a 1982 sweet sixteen appearance and the great Hall of Famer, Gus Johnson. But as the motto goes, what have you done for me recently?

The Idaho Vandals men’s team has not made the NCAA tournament since 1990, garnering a 13 seed and losing to 4 seed Louisville 78-59. That loss is the end of an era, an era that saw us make the NCAA tournament four times in nine years and the NIT once in that time as well. I remember growing up hearing about how good Idaho was in hoops. But last night made me realize, I’ve never really ever seen it for myself. It has been 31 years since Idaho has made the NCAA tournament. I am 28 years old. In fact, 1993 was the last year Idaho was even in a conference tournament final, until a miracle run in 2014 as the 5 seed in the WAC. We have barely even made any semi-finals appearances since 2004 in the Big West and recently two in the Big Sky. But is that the standard for a great, historically good hoops program or are we just living a lie?

Maybe I was a bit blinded to this fact as notably I am not a hoops guy, and growing up I had heard the stories but never watched the team. When I got to campus in 2010 things were better than they had been in a white. We had made the CIT twice while I was in school, made the conference tournament final once (2014) and had a huge instant classic upset win against #17 Utah State on ESPN2, following that up with a trip to Boise for a hard fought loss against the Broncos three days later on ESPNU. When I left campus in 2015 my takeaway on our men’s hoops program was, they are good, they just choke in the conference tournament. We had been upset in the conference tournament so many times. I didn’t think coach Don Verlin would ever even get us a win in one. I was pretty close on that prediction. Though getting us to 5 post season tournaments in 11 years (4 CIT’s, 1 CBI) and constantly being around 20 wins, 2 semi-final appearances in Big Sky tournament (2016 &2017) and the WAC conference final in 2014, Verlin went 4-11, with 4 upset losses in conference tournaments.

Yet, today, that feels like the glory days. Being a high seed, usually getting upset in the conference tournament and having All-Decade players like Kyle Barone, Jeff Ledbetter, Stephen Madison, Vic Sanders, Djim Bandoumel, etc. is better than what we have now. Hell, it is better than what we had before. We had very little to hang our hat on from 1991 to 2009. It was 18 years of just existing, telling stories and being a part of three different conferences.

So what happened to Idaho? Was Don Verlin really what got us looking to be as close to our 80’s self as we have looked since? Are we really so lost without him, that everyone wants the new guy out so bad they can replace him with coaching retreads like Larry Eustachy and Dan Monson? Is that really where we are at?

Giving a coach one year and thinking our next move is a guy like Monson? He will be 60 years old, hasn’t had a winning season since 2015, and we probably won’t have to pay a buyout for, because he might be flat-out fired from his current school? Or Eustachy who is 65 and hasn’t coached in three seasons and was put on leave by his former employer for “creating a culture of fear and intimidation”. Is this really where we are at? Because I’m going to be honest, those options suck.

Luckily for Idaho we get to turn to a new page and start a new chapter. We are building a new beautiful basketball arena that will be the gem of the Big Sky Conference and one of the top mid-major facilities out west, AKA the house Jon Newlee built. We should become a destination school for hoopers in the west.

Things look grim right now with the announcement that five players have entered the transfer portal (Hunter-Jack Madden, Anthony Youngerman, DeAndre Robinson , Ja’vary Christmas & Scott Blakeny). But, a reminder, the portal is a double edged sword. It can give as much as it takes. It now means we have room for five more players we wouldn’t have otherwise had. Which after this year’s results, is probably a good thing. You look at a team like Weber, who with a few transfers last year, went from 9th in conference to 3rd. Or, to bring it full circle, Montana State, whose entire starting lineup is almost all transfers. In this day and age, it is more possible than ever to go from last to first.

Let’s settle down now that the emotions of the season are over. Claus is our guy for next season, whether you are happy about it or not. He has a three year contract, meaning he has two seasons remaining. If he cannot get it done with the roster openings, guys like McHugh coming back, and a beautiful new arena to attract recruits? Then we have real problems and should move on. If that is the case, the next guy we get, I hope is better than Eustachy and Monson. Because we are better than that, or at least should be.

If Claus isn’t the young, energetic, trend breaker this program needs, then I hope Athletic Director Terry Gawlik flexes some of those Wisconsin connections, snoops around Spokane area, or hell, even steals Leon Rice. But surely we can find someone to get us back to our 80’s dominance, or at the least, a more reliable version of the Verlin era. We have to be able to… right?

If on Selection Sunday 2026, after five years of the tournament being in Boise, I am still not writing about Idaho in a championship game, with all the positive things going for us in coming years, then it is time to quit calling ourselves a school with a rich men’s basketball history.

Projected 2021 Spring Season 2 Deeps | Idaho Vandals

We have a spring season on the way and the team has started conditioning. It is time to analyze what the team may look like February 27th in the Kibbie Dome against Northern Colorado in our opener (subject to change).

I am going to to take my best educated guess at the two-deeps going into camp.

QB

QB1 is Mike Beaudry. It has been stated by coach Petrino more than enough times to be a slip-up. We also called this back in June. There is no competition at the position for the first time since 2017. Hopefully, it leads to similar success the last time we had a starter written in pen.

CJ Jordan is your backup. With a free year of eligibility this spring, expect him to play in any blowouts. Hopefully it’s us doing the blowout. This spring, paired with the allowed 4 games in fall, it is possible CJ Jordan could have 14 games worth of experience when he takes the field as a redshirt freshman starter for the 2022 season, which is unheard of! Just give us the ship 2022-2025 now.

I would be remise, as a noted Nikhil Nayar fanboy to not say, “Don’t Sleep on Nayar!”

FB

Logan Kendall, no question. Paul has raved about him! Moving on.

RB

True Sophomore Aundre Carter surely positioned himself to win this job. However, he has left the team. No worries; don’t forget we had the exact scenario last season. Top young rusher Tyrese Walker also did not return after a standout true freshman year.

As has been the case with Petrino in the past, we’ll have a “by committee” system. The hope is somebody breaks out and takes control, as in the past with Elijhaa Penny and Isaiah Saunders. Even with Carter, Walker, and Saunders, we started to divvy carries by matchup. Thigpen played a majority of the snaps against Portland State, only to have Nick Romano take most of them the next week.

Basically, expect Romano, Thigpen & Roshaun Johnson to be the “big three.” But, both redshirt sophomore Kiahn Martinez and Khalil Forehand are poised to be this season’s out-of-nowhere stud!

WR

Let me just be straight with you… Cutrell Haywood and the field.

That said, it is not to say we don’t have talent there. We just have been blessed over the past two years to have a mix of Jeff Cotton, David Ungerer, and Cutrell Haywood. Now it’s dwindled down to just Cutrell and a log jam of depth behind him. We have legitimately 10 dudes who could be in our top four. I will just list the guys to be aware of Jermaine Jackson (Junior, No. 1), Michael Noil (Redshirt Sophomore, No. 2), Sean McCormick (Sophomore, No. 10), DJ Lee (Redshirt junior, No. 11), Kyrin Beachem (Sophomore, No. 14), Kaleb Covington (Sophomore, No. 18), Bryson Lee (Sophomore, No. 20), Hayden Hatten (Sophomore, No. 80), Daseau Puffer (Sophomore, No. 88) and Noah Ormsby (No. 89).

You probably noticed most of the players I listed have no redshirt. I would expect a majority to become Redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores. We need to utilize the free eligibility in the spring and find the guys to use in the fall when eligibility counts, then keep the rest on ice for upcoming seasons.

My best guess for our five-wide set would be some combo of Cutrell Haywood, DJ Lee, Hayden Hatten, Jermaine Jackson, and Daseau Puffer.

OL

I am gonna be honest here, and shame on me. I am 5-foot-5 and the furthest thing from an offensive lineman. I know zero of the dudes in the trenches. I was a running back/linebacker in my youth and a cornerback in reality in high school.

Here’s what I know about the offensive line: Mathew Faupusa is an absolute stud and the best bet to fill the gap left by Noah Johnson. Darius Archie you can pen in as a starter, along with Logan Floyd. I know I’m most likely leaving multiple important players off this list.

For the new bloods, Noah Gunn and Josh Guzik were big recruiting grabs last year. I would expect one of them to capitalize on an open spot on the line, most likely at a tackle position.

Petrino spoke highly of Jory Dotts as being a mean son of a gun. I expect him to get reps with the free eligibility.

The rest of the line is filled in based on generic assumptions and available stats.

DL

See above for what I know about this side of the trenches as well, especially after running the opposite 4-3 concept my whole life to Idaho’s 3-4. However, Rahsaan Crawford and Kayode Rufai are animals! I know that.

Then you have what I will label “the four.” People forget we have, and I make no apologies for this comment … The best front seven in the entire FCS. Vei Tomasi, Noah Elliss, Jonah Kim, and Nate DeGraw start on almost every other roster in FCS, no questions asked. It is a benefit we have them as “rotational” players.

I think Jonah Kim is best set to be penciled in as the third star of the group, simply based on the fact Paul Petrino speaks highly of him, frequently.

LB

Mark me down now: We have four All-Americans. Now, well-known FCS pundits Sam Herder, Brian McLaughlin, and Craig Haley will NEVER put all four as first, second, or third-team All-Americans. Even the North Dakota State dynasty never received such an honor. But, I will die on this hill. Tre Walker, Christian Elliss, Chuck Akanno are first-teamers. Fa’avae Fa’avae, I would wager a condo will play at that level as well. In fact, Idaho may have the best four linebackers ever to play at the FCS level. You can @ me, I dare you. But before you do, imagine this. The returning solo tackles leader in the FCS as a sophomore, the leading NFL prospect at the FCS level, or the nation’s leader in tackles for loss through 10 weeks, despite missing three of those games, all standing behind you while you’re telling me I’m wrong.

The best part is … our depth is lethal behind them too. Sully Shannon, Jalen Jenkins, Coleman Johnson, Leo Tamba, Tanner Brooks, Hogan Hatten, and Talon Davis are all capable linebackers.

The Back End

Look, if you want me to get into the semantics of safeties versus corners, I will fail you. With no offense to whoever ends up playing safety for us (outside of Zach Borisch), we have a lot of what you would call defensive backs. This is not a slight, but a reference to our squad of guys being better defined as hybrids.

Dareon Nash is an All-Conference caliber transfer from Montana at corner. If there was a “pen-in” starter on this squad, he seems to be the guy.

Now, Jalen Hoover is rumored/reported to be in the transfer portal, but he’s a starter if he returns. However, he is good enough to get an offer elsewhere. We of all programs can’t be mad at a guy who wants to take his FBS shot if it comes along.

Most interesting player on backend is Tyrese Dedmon. He has been an amazing player for us and could be suprise standout.

Others to have an eye on… No. 6 Wyryor Noil (Redshirt junior), No. 12 Arnell Walker (Freshman), No. 15 Zach Borisch (Redshirt sophomore), No. 16 Jaxson Woodward (Redshirt sophomore), No. 18 Tommy McCormick (Freshman), No. 19 Tevin Duke (Senior), No. 22 Awan Parker (Junior), No. 23 Mujeeb Rufai (Redshirt sophomore), No. 28 Colbey Nosworthy (Freshman), No. 4 Jabril Pharms (Freshman), and No. 47 Tarynce Antolin (Freshman).

That is my best guess at our two-deeps headed into camp. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below or on the twitter-sphere.

The Questions I Have About Spring Football 2021

This morning the Big Sky Conference announced it will be moving its 2020 football season to the spring, effectively putting one of the final nails in the FCS Playoffs coffin. With the Big Sky out, many people seem to think the Missouri Valley will be the next conference officially putting an end to the FCS playoffs. Meaning, there really isn’t a strong reason for schools to play each other … except for money.

Fans will have differing opinions as to whether this was the right call, but I don’t care either way anymore. I just have more questions than answers: Questions on the national, divisional and local level. If you have the answers I seek, please share them.

Nationally

The NFL Draft?

  • The NFL Draft is currently set for April 29th – May 1st. If FBS Power 5 play, you would imagine the NFL Draft is not moving. Are we going to have players sit out after a few good games in order to prep for the draft and not run the risk of injury? Think Trey Lance of North Dakota State who is a projected top 10 draft pick.

Transfers?

  • Not every players’ draft stock is as locked as Trey Lance’s if they choose to opt out. Do some opt in to playing at an FBS school this fall? This appears to be an option gaining popularity. An All-American James Madison standing announced he will be seeking to transfer to an FBS school per the Richmond Times-Dispatch because the FBS has a higher likelihood to play. Who else may fall in this category? Eric Barriere of Eastern Washington? Zerrick Cooper of Jacksonville State? Christian Elliss of Idaho?

The FCS

Frisco?

  • Anyone’s best guess would put the 2020* FCS Championship Game around the end of April to early June 2021, in which case Major League Soccer would presumably be back playing. FC Dallas is the home team and owner of Toyota Stadium, where the FCS Championship is held. While not insurmountable to schedule around, maybe FC Dallas does not want the damage that football causes done to their short grass field when they are in middle of their season. Is the game moved to a new location?

Scholarship Numbers?

  • It sounds like no one is losing eligibility. Seniors this fall will still be seniors this spring. How do schools know how many scholarships they have to use? Usually it is based off your projected graduating class. Some players may opt to just graduate in the winter of 2020. I would imagine the majority decide to return and play this spring. The FCS only allows 63 scholarships, so how are leagues and programs going to adjust this for spring?

Recruiting/Eligibility?

  • The early signing period is in December and National Letter of Intent day is early February. Both, you would assume, are before the spring 2021 season would kickoff. Are early high school graduates, transfers and JuCo signings going to be able to play this spring since they will already be on campus?

Money?

  • How are schools going to make up the loss of the bodybag game payouts?  Does the season moving impact TV contracts? These issues combined are millions of dollars left on table. Worrisome for athletic departments that tend to already run lean and rely heavily on these revenue sources just to meet budget.

Fall 2021?

  • Are we going to roll into the fall 2021 season with only 2-4 months off? If the Power 5 play, is this even safe? Most FCS schools’ first few games are against these type of schools. Is it safe for Mercer to be on about three months rest, start practice and then play Alabama to start their fall 2021 season?

Practice?

  • Are teams still able to practice all fall and winter? What are the restrictions going to look like, both with Covid-19 and competitive restrictions?

The Big Sky Conference

Conference Schedule?

  • Is the schedule going to be the same that it was for the fall 2020 season?

Backup Plan?

  • Thinking we will be in a much improved position come spring 2021 is a tad naive in my opinion. What is the plan if some schools cannot participate? How do you make the Covid protocol improvements athletes are looking for to be safe? How do we proactively put ourselves in a better spot than we are in today?

Idaho Vandals

Kibbie Dome?

  • Are we canceling indoor track and field in the spring? Are the basketball programs going to get booted to Mem Gym late in the season? How does football coexist in the multi-use facility that is transformed three different times throughout the year?

Building with the players?

Future Schedule?

Other Sports?

  • Are we able to afford winter and spring sports without football revenue from the fall? Do people need to donate the the Vandal Scholarship Fund (VSF)? If so, how much do we need to give to save our programs?

 

 

 

Replacement Ideas For Week 1 & 3

What does this season hold for Idaho?

The news that the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) and PAC-12 are going to conference only schedule for fall 2020 means Vandal football has an open date week 1 and week 3. For now, Idaho expects to play in the fall and the Big Sky has not ruled itself into conference only schedules. The way the current schedules looks you would not know it. Idaho’s lone non-conference opponent is week 2 at Temple.  With a bye week in week 4 and conference play for us starting week 5 (October 3rd) at UC Davis. Even if you are lucky enough to be part of the planned 5100 in attendance, you will not see the team in Moscow until October 10th against Portland State for Homecoming. We would then play 3 of our next 4 games in Moscow. Before ending the season on a two game road trip.

Football as a whole is up in the air. Does not mean I cannot play mad scientist with our schedule again. I would like to try and just replace the games we are missing in week 1 and 3. Not completely redo the schedule, just plug and play type of solution.

Week 1 Options

Northern Arizona 

It is already going to be an unorthodox season. Why not start it out the same way? Have Northern Arizona (NAU) come to the Kibbie dome twice, week 1 (September 5th) and week 9 (October 31st). NAU originally scheduled to travel to Arizona State before the PAC-12 announced it was going conference only. They were already going on the road. If the Big Sky does not move or cancel football this fall, then Northern Arizona appears to be a school willing to play. The same cannot be said for the California Schools.

At Utah State

Utah State was also hung out to dry like us with Washington State and the PAC 12 decision to not play out of conference. We could renew an old Big West, Sunbelt and WAC rivalry with the ole blue Aggies from the state of Utah. This game was always one of the more fun games on our schedule in the late 90s through the early 2010s. Bring it back. This is type of FBS program we should be scheduling anyways. No better time than now to get them back on the schedule.

At Colorado State

The PAC 12 strikes again. This time in the form of the “Rocky Mountain Showdown”. With week 1 open and a bit of a fun history against Idaho 2009, 2010 and 2016 all being instant classics. This would not be the worst game to schedule. In fact quite the opposite.

At Montana

Instead of paying a school a small fee to come to us. Why not collect a little bit of money to go to Montana. Montana also lost their GNAC opponent week 1, creating an opening. Idaho leads the all-time series 55-29-2. I’m sure Montana wouldn’t mind a chance to knock the series total two closer in their favor in one season. While Idaho wouldn’t mind two chances at getting the Little Brown Stein back or extending the lead by two games.

North Dakota State

I mean it is open for both of us. They were already going to travel to Oregon. Why not host the Bison in Moscow? I mean, there is a ton of reasons. It still would be pretty cool and sure would make those 5100 seats more appealing.

Northern Iowa

Had some classics with these cats in the 90s. They no longer play Iowa, they could play Idaho?

Week 3 Options

At Utah State

Washington Huskies are out. Plug Idaho in. For all the same reasons mention in week 1 explanation. Assuming we didn’t schedule them week 1.

At Air Force

No longer traveling to Purdue. Maybe they would like to host Idaho? We have almost no recent history with this team. But may be fun to start some. Plus with our defense, this could be a game.

At Wyoming

The Utes are no longer on their way Laramie. I know I would like another shot at the Cowboys after last year. Where our upset slipped through our finger tips.

At North Dakota State

NC A&T is out of the picture in week 3 for NDSU. Even if Idaho plays them week 1, a little home and home would most likely benefit both schools. They both miss a PAC 12 payday. Both could save money by not having to pay another school to come. In terms of win, loss record not a strong idea for Idaho. In terms of turning this 2020 schedule into something and having a reliable opponent that has same likelihood of playing as you do, is somewhat unmeasurable in terms of importance this year. Better be quick, best believe James Madison has already made a call.

South Dakota State

Nebraska Out. The Big Ten is doing to the Missouri Valley what the PAC 12 did to the Mountain West and Big Sky. This would give us an opportunity to host week 3 if we went on the road in week 1. I imagine the money may not be there though. This option seems a tad unlikely.

At Portland State / Home vs Portland State

Oregon State is out. Play Idaho twice in 3 weeks? Once in Portland/Hillsboro week 3 and again in week 5 in Moscow. If Idaho is unable to get NDSU or NAU to come to the Kibbie Dome week 1, see if Portland State is willing to travel to Moscow twice. 

Conclusion

The way the season is going it is probably best to hold off on scheduling anyone new. As the college football landscape seems to change daily. More teams may fall off our schedule, more may become available or perhaps even we fall off other teams schedule. I just wanted to have some fun with it.

The right pairing would be important. Are we looking for a fun schedule, a winnable schedule, a fiscally conservative schedule or a mix? I know my dream schedule would be NDSU home and away. The best case schedule would be Week 1: Northern Iowa, Week 3 at Utah State. The safest to stay on the books would be Week 1: Northern Arizona, Week 3 at Portland State, which doubles as our most likely to make the FCS Playoffs if they happen.

Though none of these are likely, I hope this at least made a little bit of that preseason excitement take hold of you for a little bit.