Idaho Will Join WAC In 2005!

The Western Athletic Conference Board of Directors today announced that an invitation for membership has been issued to and accepted by the University of Idaho to join the WAC effective <b>July 1, 2005</b> as a full member.<br> <br> From all of us at VV.com, a sincere THANK YOU to everyone involved (from current WAC members to UI reps) in making this goal a reality. And to Gary Michael, Dr. White, Dr. Spear, and the rest of the Idaho Athletic Department, congratulations on a job well done!

We'll link more stories as they become available on this land-mark development for the University of Idaho.


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MOSCOW, Idaho – The waiting and speculation ended Friday when the University of Idaho accepted an invitation to become an all-sports member of the Western Athletic Conference.

"This is an historic day for Vandal athletics," UI director of athletics Rob Spear said. "We would like to thank the presidents of the Western Athletic Conference for extending the invitation, which we enthusiastically accept."

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said the decision of the eight voting members – the schools that will comprise the WAC in 2005 – was unanimous.

"The WAC is very excited about Idaho's membership," Benson said. "They bring great enthusiasm. They bring excitement to the WAC. They'll bring great value to the WAC.

"The presidents looked at what the entire Vandal program brought to the WAC. Not just the athletic side. The academic side is an important part and certainly impressed our board today. To have brought in Idaho not as a full member would have been a disservice. We just think that Idaho will be a very productive and very valuable full member of the WAC."

The Vandals will compete for one more season in the Sun Belt Conference before becoming a full member of a western conference for the first time since the Big West Conference dropped football following the 2000 season.

In making the move, Idaho rejoins former Big West foes Boise State, Utah State, New Mexico State and Nevada in forming a conference based in the western United States. Also in the WAC in 2005 will be Fresno State, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and the University of Hawai`i.

Program-wide, the change in conference should amount to a savings of $175,000 annually in travel costs.

"We persevered when other people thought we were headed the wrong direction with our programs. This is just another step in the right direction," Spear said.

The invitation brought to an end days of speculation about the future path of the WAC and whether Idaho would be on it. In issuing the invitation, the WAC presidents set the stage for a nine-team conference, which guarantees each team four home football games.

"It provides us stability we've been lacking," Spear said. "It's very important to be in one conference. We think we can bring some value to that conference and be competitive. We're going to roll up our sleeves and work hard and compete."

Interim UI president Gary Michael, who was with Spear when he made Friday morning's presentation to the WAC presidents, said the work is just beginning.

"This is a great day for us," Michael said. "Our people have wanted this for a long time. Now we have to get the job done. This is an important milestone for us."



From TODAY'S Spokesman Review:


Vandals accepted into WAC
Jim Meehan
Staff writer


The University of Idaho has finally found a new conference home – one that is much closer to its own back yard.

The Western Athletic Conference formally invited the Vandals as an all-sports member on Friday and long-suffering Idaho quickly accepted. WAC Board of Directors voted during their meetings at Half Moon Bay, Calif., to bring Idaho aboard, effective for the 2005-06 athletic season.

"It's a landmark day," said Vandals athletic director Rob Spear, who made a power-point pre sentation to WAC presidents Friday morning before hopping on a plane back to Moscow. "This is something we've been working toward for a long time. We're excited and we feel pretty good about our future direction."

Idaho left NCAA Division I-AA football after the 1995 season for the I-A Big West, but that conference sacked football following the 2000 season. Idaho's only option was to join the southern-based Sun Belt Conference while keeping its non-football programs in the Big West.

More than two years ago, the NCAA adopted new rules requiring I-A conferences to have eight all-sports members, prompting Idaho to join the Sun Belt as a full member beginning in 2005. The State Board of Education gave lukewarm approval – a 5-3 vote after two hours of debate. UI officials hoped throughout that the Vandals would never have to play a basketball game or contest a track meet in the Sun Belt, banking on additional conference shakeups to open a WAC vacancy.

Friday, the WAC opened its doors to Idaho, which will replace Conference USA-bound UTEP. Joining the WAC will reunite Idaho with its biggest rival, Boise State. New Mexico State and Utah State, Idaho's brethren in Sun Belt football, also will join the WAC in 2005.

Barring additional changes – and the WAC has seen its share in the last five years – the WAC in 2005 will consist of Idaho, Hawaii, Fresno State, Nevada, San Jose State, Boise State, Utah State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.

"I'm not sure if (the vote was unanimous), but (WAC commissioner) Karl Benson said we were ‘enthusiastically recommended,' " Spear said.




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