In 2014 the Sun Belt added Idaho and New Mexico State on a football-only basis to help keep the conference afloat amid a flurry of realignment changes in college football. The conference lost FAU, FIU, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas to Conference USA in 2013 and then lost Western Kentucky to the same conference a year later. Having been left in the rubble left from the implosion of the WAC, Idaho and New Mexico State were stranded until the Sun Belt welcomed each to the fold (the Mountain West Conference advised each to move on to Plan B). The two were added on four-year terms, which are quickly approaching expiration dates. That has both looking to cement their future stability, and Idaho made their sales pitch this week with a slideshow presentation.
Within the 19-slide presentation (which you can view HERE) are bullet points reminding the conference Idaho is a founding Sun Belt member and it helped provide the conference with some form of stability during conference realignmageddon (along with New Mexico State). It also noted Idaho finished with an average ranking than four other Sun Belt schools in 2015 according to multiple college football rankings such as the Sagarin and Massey rankings. Of course, as is is generally the case when it comes to conference expansion and realignment discussions, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Money.
Idaho is smart to make note the inclusion of the Vandals as a Sun Belt member has had no impact on the conference’s ranking in terms of finances compared to other Group of Five conferences, although the Sun Belt does lag just behind Conference USA to take the bottom spot. As for television markets, Idaho’s big selling point is the ability to deliver “two major media markets” to the conference with the Spokane, Washington and Boise, Idaho markets. It’s not exactly New York, but you sell what you can offer.
Idaho also defends the stigma that suggests the program can struggle to fund its football program. The slideshow argues travel for the football program is “not extremely demanding,” and improvements to the airport in Moscow will soon allow visitors to fly much closer to Idaho’s campus.
The Sun Belt Conference will welcome Coastal Carolina to the conference starting later this year. Coastal Carolina will join the Sun Belt Conference in all sports but football on July 1 and will take the football field as Sun Belt members starting in 2017.