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.

Could High Noon Big Sky & Pac 12 After Dark Help Idahos Deficit?

The University of Idaho is facing a bit of a budget crisis. In a rare feat of dumb luck, misfortune and geography, Idaho may be able to get creative in generating new revenue during the upcoming fall season in midst of the current pandemic.

The State of Idaho, for right or wrong, is moving along quicker than some neighboring states at reopening. With the recent announcement that students will be returning to campus in August, along with rumors the football team could report to campus as soon as early June, everything is pointing towards Idaho hosting sports come fall.

States like Oregon have said no sporting events until October. The California State University system has said it doesn’t expect students back in the fall.  It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that the state of Washington could say something similar and not allow sports within its state borders, seeing as the three states are apart of a joint COVID Coalition.

This puts our neighbors to the west in a particularly tough place. What if Washington State is not allowed to play sporting events in Martin Stadium come fall 2020? Is there a way to almost repay the “favor” they did for us back in late 90’s and early 2000’s?

Idaho at this point will have, we assume, already put into place proper precautions, procedures, and rules to be as safe a place as possible to host sports during the pandemic. All Washington State would have to do is bus the 8 miles to their new temporary home, play their home games in the Kibbie Dome, and then bus back. Idaho would obviously work out some sort of monetary deal for renting the Kibbie Dome. Whether it be a portion of ticket sales, concession, other game-day revenue, or just a flat fee depending on what the decided attendance structure even is (students only, season ticket holders only, completely empty?)

It also just so happens there is another school in a similar boat 77 miles away. It would be pretty cool having Coug, Eagle & Vandal doubleheaders in Moscow this fall.

 

Here is a hypothetical season in the Kibbie:

September 5th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Idaho v Western Oregon

September 12th

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Western Illinois
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Houston

September 19th (AKA Palousefest 2020)

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Northern Arizona
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Idaho

October 3rd

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Montana
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Cal

October 10th

  • Noon Kickoff: Idaho v Portland State
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Utah

October 17th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Idaho

October 24th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Idaho v Montana

October 31st

  • Noon Kickoff: Idaho v Northern Arizona
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Arizona State

November 7th

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Montana State
  • Evening Kickoff: Idaho v Southern Utah

November 21st

  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Oregon

November 27th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Washington State v Washington

 

Big Sky at noon, followed up by ‘Pac-12 After Dark.’ That would be something else. Not to mention the added foot traffic coming to town to help those businesses that just penny-pinched to keep the lights on.

I understand that there are other logistics and more important health concerns that would need to be worked out to make this even remotely possible. We also aren’t even sure what the 2020 schedule will evolve into, as news is changing by the moment. It is an interesting scenario and alternative that the FBS & FCS programs in Palouse could look at. This is the outside-the-box thinking Idaho needs to be doing to conquer our financial woes. This call should at least be placed to the respective athletic directors on interest, if possible.

One last thought on this hypothetical,  Just imagine the Kibbie Dome parking lot on September 19th or even October 3rd…Heaven won’t be the only place without beer!