Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan took time out from celebrating the Vandals' bowl victory Thursday night to criticize his school's downward move to the Football Championship Subdivision.
"We belong in FBS, period. That's what I believe, that's what everyone believes," Linehan said during an ESPN Radio interview after Idaho's 61-50 victory over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.
"We know we can compete, we belong here. No matter what anyone thinks, even our tone-deaf president. Maybe he doesn't think we belong here, but I think we belong here," Linehan said moments after earning MVP honors in the win.
In announcing Idaho's move in April, Idaho president Chuck Staben was quoted as saying, "Our relevance will be complemented by our football program, not defined by it."
The Vandals will become the first school to make the drop. In 2018, they will return to the Big Sky Conference, where they played from 1963 to 1995. The conference already is home to Idaho's other athletic teams.
Linehan, who toned down his comments and apologized to Staben in the postgame news conference, still reveled in the season-ending win.
"No matter what was said to begin the year, I think all these guys believed we could get to this point,'' Linehan said. "We spent so much time dealing with adversity and tough losses. I think we were just tired of losing.''
The Sun Belt Conference announced March 1 that it would drop Idaho and New Mexico State, who are both midway through four-year associate memberships, after the 2017 season.
"I couldn't be more proud of our players,'' Vandals coach Paul Petrino said. "They were focused on winning the football game and that helped them come out and play well early. They were told there were a bunch of things they weren't supposed to be able to do, but they did it anyway.''
Petrino shied away from wading in on the school's decision, but that didn't stop him from politicking.
"You'd hope we made a statement,'' he said. "We were 2-0 against Mountain West teams year. We'd look pretty good in that conference. But I can only control what I can control, and that's to be as good of a coach as I can be.''
Linehan, whose father Scott Linehan is the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, also ran for another score in the third-highest scoring game in bowl history.
Idaho finished this season with nine wins.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.