There's never been a better time to be an Idaho Vandals player, coach, alum, and fan.
As the club prepares for its final three games of the season, here's five reasons an Idaho Vandals-FCS marriage makes complete sense.
5. FBS Opponents Are Still on the Schedule
Vandals' fans will still get to watch plenty of FBS competition despite the shift to the FCS. Between now and 2022, Idaho will face programs like Missouri, Florida, Penn State, Indiana, and Washington State.
4. Quarterbacks Thrive in Moscow
Idaho has quietly become a haven for quarterbacks.
Nate Enderle threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2009 en route to a Humanitarian Bowl victory over Bowling Green.
Current QB Matt Linehan has already thrown for nearly 10,800 yards and 62 touchdowns in his four seasons at the helm. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior is even starting to get some NFL Draft buzz as of late.
3. Coaching Stability
When the Sun Belt announced it wouldn't be retaining Idaho after the 2017 season, it was easy to speculate if head coach Paul Petrino would leave.
Signed through 2020, and coming off an impressive 9-4 campaign in 2016 to go along with a Humanitarian Bowl victory, Petrino has expressed his full commitment to the program since the day the Sun Belt news broke. This stability will help not only with current recruits, but also keeping talent in Moscow and out of the hands of Big Sky opponents.
Currently sitting at 3-6, the club has three winnable games remaining on its schedule at home to Coastal Carolina (1-9) before ending the season on the road at New Mexico State (4-5) and Georgia State (6-3).
With a trio of wins, the Vandals will appear in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
1. Renewed Rivalries
A charter member of the Big Sky in 1963, the Vandals played against natural in-state and bordering-state rivals that included Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, and Weber State. That all ended in 1996 when it joined the Big West. Since then Idaho has played in the now-defunct Western Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, and spent the 2013 season as an FBS independent.
Joining the Sun Belt in 2014 for its second stint (they were in the conference from 2001-2004 previously) has meant road games against squads like Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Monroe. These non-regional matchups clearly made it inconvenient at best and expensive at worse for fans, alums, and students to follow the team on the road.
By joining the Big Sky, trips to the University of Montana can be accomplished in around 4 hours while road games at Eastern Washington are only 90 minutes north. Vandals' fans can finally follow their team without having to travel all the way to the East Coast.
Between recent success, stability on the coaching staff, and the excitement of playing old rivals, the timing couldn't be better for Idaho to rejoin the FCS and Big Sky.