July 1st typically marks the first day of a new year for a lot of programs in transition and that goes for apparel contracts (Georgia Tech is now officially Adidas) as well as FBS membership.
Today, major college football gained one school, and dropped another and will once again enter 2018 with 130 FBS member schools.
Idaho joined the FBS ranks back in 1996, but today marked a new chapter for the program as they drop down to the FCS level after being essentially shown the door by the Sun Belt, along with New Mexico State (who will become an FBS Independent). The Vandals, led by Paul Petrino, will be one of the first FBS schools in decades to drop down to the FCS level and they'll return to familiar roots to compete in the Big Sky conference. Petrino went 1-11 his first season as an Independent, and 1-10 in 2014, their first year in the Sun Belt. 2015 showed marked improvement to 4-8 before a breakout year in 2016 at 9-4. 2017 saw the Vandals finish their last opportunity at the FBS level at 4-8.
Let's visit a few interesting facts about the Idaho football program.
- Winningest head coach: John L. Smith (yes, that one) - 53-21 from 1989-1984
- Undefeated in bowl games (3-0 with all appearances in the Humanitarian / Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
- Dennis Erickson led the program two different times (1982-85 when they went 32-15 and then again in 2006, a 4-8 season)
- The program has churned out two 1st round NFL Draft picks (RB Ray McDonald, 13th overall in 1967 to the Redskins and G Mike Iupati, 17 overall in 2010 to the 49ers.
- Other recognizable names that have led the Vandals program in the past include Nick Holt (2004-05), Tom Cable (2000-03), Chris Tormey (1995-99).
- Other notable draft picks include G Mark Schlereth, and QB Doug Nussmeier
Moving from the FCS ranks to the FBS level is Liberty, led by former Kansas and Buffalo head coach Turner Gill. The Flames enter major college football as an independent in 2018 and will be a full-member (including bowl eligibility) in 2019. Liberty started playing football back in 1973 as an NAIA Independent before making the jump to Division II Independent in 1981. By 1989 they had made the jump to I-AA and through the years have an overall record of 223-213. Their four-decade climb is complete today as they officially enter the ranks of major college football.
Last year, Gill led the Flames to a 48-45 victory over Matt Rhule and Baylor, and their inaugural FBS schedule is:
9/1 - vs. Old Dominion
9/8 - @ Army
9/15 - vs. Norfolk State
9/22 - vs. North Texas
9/29 - @ New Mexico
10/6 - @ New Mexico State
10/13 - vs. Troy
10/20 - vs. Idaho State
11/3 - @ UMass
11/10 - @ Virginia
11/17 - @ Auburn
11/24 - vs. New Mexico State
If you think you're seeing double, that's no typo, Gill and his squad will travel to New Mexico State in October and finish the regular season against them at home in November.
Interesting times for both programs. Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.