Big Sky welcomes back Vandals

OGDEN, Utah — The University of Idaho, a charter member of the Big Sky Conference, officially returned to the league on Tuesday.

The Vandals will compete in the Big Sky Conference for all league-sponsored sports with the exception of football. Idaho’s football team will remain in the Bowl Subdivision as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

Idaho, along with Gonzaga, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, and Weber State formed the Big Sky Conference, which began operation on July 1, 1963. The Vandals left the Big Sky following the 1995-96 academic year.

Idaho State, Montana, Montana State and Weber State remain members of the Big Sky Conference. With Idaho’s return, the Big Sky possesses five of its original six charter members.

Under the direction of Athletics Director Rob Spear, a Butte Central graduate, the Vandals won the Western Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Cup in 2013-14. Idaho won WAC postseason titles in women’s cross country, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field. Idaho’s women’s basketball team also captured the WAC regular-season title.

“We officially welcome Idaho back to the Big Sky Conference,’’ said league commissioner Doug Fullerton, who is beginning his 20th year at the helm of the 51-year-old league. “This is a great day for the Big Sky. Many of our schools are ready to renew rivalries with the Vandals. Idaho is coming off a very successful year in the WAC, and we anticipate the Vandals will be a very strong and competitive member of the Big Sky.”

Idaho won 10 Big Sky Conference men’s tennis championships, three men’s outdoor track and field championships, two men’s cross country titles, three regular-season volleyball tiles, four postseason volleyball championships, four regular-season and postseason men’s basketball tournaments during its previous run in the league.

Idaho won the Big Sky Men’s All-Sports Trophy in 1965-66 and again in 1989-90.  Idaho won the combined men’s and women’s All-Sports Trophy in 1989-90.

“As a founding member of the Big Sky Conference, we are extremely excited for our return and the opportunity to compete against traditional rivals,” Spear said.

Idaho will play its first Big Sky Conference soccer match on Sept. 26 at home against Northern Colorado. Its volleyball team will begin conference play the same weekend, traveling to Northern Colorado on Thursday, Sept. 25, and then taking on North Dakota on Sept. 27.

The Vandals’ first conference men’s basketball game will be at home on Jan. 1, 2015 against Idaho State. Defending league champion Weber State plays the Vandals in Moscow on Jan. 3.  Idaho’s first conference women’s game will be Jan. 1 at Idaho State. Idaho’s women’s head coach Jon Newlee was the Bengals’ head coach for six years from 2002-08.

Idaho’s return to the Big Sky also resulted in the return of men’s golf as a championship sport. The Big Sky last sponsored a men’s golf championship in 2002. Idaho, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State sponsor men’s golf. The league has also added Binghamton and Hartford as men’s golf affiliate members.

Idaho Quick Facts

Location: Moscow, Idaho.

Enrollment: 12,493

Founded: 1889

President: Dr. Chuck Staben

Nickname: Vandals

Colors: Silver and Vandal Gold

Athletics Director: Rob Spear

Head Coach In Big Sky Sports

Soccer – Derek Pittman

Men’s Basketball – Don Verlin

Women’s Basketball – Jon Newlee

Men’s Golf – John Means

Women’s Golf – Lisa Johnson

Men’s Tennis – Jeff Beaman

Women’s Tennis – Mariana Cobra

CC & Track and Field – TBA

Volleyball – Debbie Buchanan

— Big Sky Conference

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