Sep 08

Bloggin’ mailbag: Big Sky’s Jacobpalooza

Tribune file photo

This Big Sky Conference business answered a lot of questions for the Cal Poly football program, but it raised a few more intriguing ones as well.

I got some great requests from username: Jacob Jackson, and Jake, I am going to answer as best I can right now.

What will an 11-team Big Sky Conference schedule slate look like?

As is, each member of the conference could play each other once, and it would guarantee five home games to each with the opportunity to schedule one guarantee game per year. But, let’s get real, that’s not going to happen. Some schools are going to want multiple guarantee games to help balance the budget. Some are going to want a guarantee game and a warm-up against a Division II. So, playing a 10-game conference schedule is probably out.

That creates a problem. Which teams will play which others? But it’s a problem that will be solved by further expansion rather than creative scheduling.

In the conference call with Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton on Tuesday, it sounded pretty clear that the league wants a 12th member, and that member will preferably be a full member and one that signs up with the conference relatively quickly. That would give the conference two six-team regionally based divisions. From there, you’d likely have each team playing every team in its division plus three more from the other division. That allows each team three games to mess with.

Who will be the 12th member?

It was speculated that Southern Utah, one of the three remaining Great West football programs and one of two FCS schools in the western region not in the Big Sky, would be the 12th team. That didn’t happen. The Tribune’s Donovan Aird spoke with Southern Utah athletic director Ken Beazer, and the Thunderbirds weren’t in talks with the Big Sky as of yesterday. It doesn’t appear that they were in the mix, but there’s been speculation that Southern Utah could have been up for discussion for this round of expansion and was voted down.

Leaving out names, Fullerton gave some insight in the teleconference.

“I’m not really at liberty to tell who they are, but there’s more than one institution interested in coming,” Fullerton said. “There’s more then one insitution that our institutions are interested in. We’re going to take our time. I think that we have time for this next decision. It will probably be something we look very hard at before Christmas.”

Does this move mean other Big Sky teams on their way out?

Could be. The WAC still has to fill out its roster, and honestly, the WAC situation seems to be what fueled all of this in the first place, maybe why the Big Sky schools were finally willing to drop their stance against associate members. Granted, the economy is a big factor, and all teams stand to gain from a 12-team conference whose travel is divided up even more regionally than it already is. But fear is a big factor, too. That’s why you had Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell working with Fullerton behind the scenes to get this done. He doesn’t want to lose any of his basketball schools to the WAC.

Here’s Fullerton’s take:

“As a commissioner, I would not be doing my job if i didn’t look ahead to those kind of situations and if we lose an institution or two to not have anticipated that. If you said ‘OK, this is also part of a protectionism on the Big Sky’s part to try and shore up the league in case it loses somebody,’ I won’t say that it wasn’t. I really won’t. Obviously, that’s in the back of your mind.”

It could be Montana and Montana State. It could be Portland State and Sacramento State. It could be none of them leaving the Big Sky. Fullerton also quipped that the Big Sky could get up to 16 teams before the Pac-10 does.

Speaking of Sac State, why wouldn’t they just play everything else in the Big West now?

It seems like Sacramento State could save a lot of money on travel if the Hornets only played football in the Big Sky and went to the Big West for everything else. But that’s probably unlikely.

For one, now that the Big West and Big Sky partnered up to get the Cal Poly and UC Davis deals done, I doubt the Big West would turn around and stab the Big Sky in the back by stealing one of its core members. Also, Fullerton said that before the Big Sky decided to bend on it’s associate membership preferences, he got assurance from them that they wouldn’t try to use it as an excuse to drop sports. He didn’t say whether the conference enacted a WAC-like buyout clause.

Related posts:

  1. Looking ahead to the weekend
  2. Poly’s big mystery announcement
  3. Cal Poly’s already in the playoffs
  4. The Monarchs’ new Dominion
  5. Sacramento State food: The Squeeze Inn


1 ping

  1. Musty

    This is great work, Josh. I joke about scoops and whatnot, but honestly, you and The Trib have covered this story just about as well as possible. Props to you, Donovan, and the rest of your crew.

  2. Joshua D. Scroggin

    Thanks, Musty. I was glad to borrow Donovan on Tuesday. I thought it was awesome tag-team work as well. Everyone at Cal Poly played this one very close to the vest, and honestly, if it wasn’t for Dr. Glidden dropping a major hint on 1280, I don’t know that anyone would have had the scoop. I guess in that way, the cred goes to Tom Barkett.

  3. Stanger

    Great info Josh.

    I think we may see University of North Dakota as the 12th member. Southern Utah is a better geographical fit, but UND is stronger academically and it’s athletic programs and facilities are stronger.

    I would like to see SUU because they have been a good conference partner in the GWFC. I also think their football program is on the way up.

  4. Jacob Jackson

    Yeah, I want to echo Musty’s comment – I am grateful for all your hard work on this Josh (and for naming a blog post “palooza” in my honor).

    Do you guys know if a 12-team league in an FCS conference can have a championship game? That would be very cool to have a Big Sky West and Big Sky “Mountain” champion meet each other in the championship game each year.

    I was baffled as to who the “multiple” teams could be who were interested in joining the Big Sky. The pool of I-AA teams just isn’t that big. But Musty’s North Dakota guess seems very insightful. They are already losing their main rival – South Dakota State is joining the Summit League in 2011. But I had been assuming that USD and UND were destined to eventually join South Dakota State and North Dakota State in their conference.

  5. Jacob Jackson

    Correction: I meant to write that University of South Dakota is joining the Summit League in ’11.

    SDSU and NDSU transitioned to D-I a few years earlier and already play in the Summit League for most sports and the Missouri Valley Football Conference for football.

    But geographically, the Dakota schools aren’t perfect fits in their current conferences, anyway. So…

    Maybe the Big Sky has been fielding interest from some combination of all four Dakota schools – SDSU, NDSU, USD, and UND. All four would seem to be desirous to join the Big Sky. It’s an upgrade in exposure for each of them and the travel isn’t really much worse than their current situation.

    But do the Dakota schools offer more than Southern Utah?

    Crazy thought: If the Big Sky added Southern Utah and all four Dakota schools, Fullerton’s tongue-in-cheek comment about expanding to 16 schools could prove precient.

    Two divisions, and two(?) automatic bids to the FCS playoffs:

    Big Sky “West”

    Eastern Washington
    Portland State
    Cal Poly
    UC Davis
    Sacramento State
    Idaho State
    Northern Arizona
    Northern Colorado (awkward, I know, but I wanted to preserve the rivalries below)

    Big Sky “Mountain”/Central

    Weber State
    Southern Utah
    Montana State
    South Dakota
    North Dakota
    North Dakota State
    South Dakota State

    Now that is an awesome 16-team conference! And it collapses the entire Great West football conference without leaving any of the final three members stranded, which they currently are now that Davis and CP left.

    Anyway, that’s all I can think of. It can’t be a D-II team. It can’t be University of San Diego, since they’re non-scholarship and couldn’t compete on that level.

  6. Jacob Jackson

    Then the WAC would add a few of the Texas I-AA schools – perhaps Texas State and UT-San Antonio – to get back up to 8 teams at least.

    I can’t see any of the Texas leaving the Southland Conference to join the Big Sky. The Southland Conference is already a good conference and they have great geographic proximity to each other. None of the teams would leave it to join the Big Sky…but to upgrade to I-A and join the WAC they would.

  7. Stanger

    I have heard Seattle and Denver have expressed interest in the Big Sky in the past, but both do not have football programs.

    As far as the Dokota school all coming into the conference together, wow that would push the Big Sky to the top of the FCS. I think the MVFC is a better fit for football, but the Summit League is a really bad conference for all of their other sports so I could see it happen.

  8. Stanger

    Here is the Summit League line up:

    Oral Roberts
    South Dakota State
    Southern Utah
    Western Illinois

    South Dakota joining in 2012 I think.
    North Dakota most likely joining in 2012.

    Big Sky is a lot better conference.

  1. The Summit League Football House of Cards | CollegeSportsInfo.com

    [...] It has been reported that as part of the recent partnership of Big West schools UC Davis & Cal Poly with the Big Sky, that the Big West has given assurances that they will not “poach” any Big Sky schools such as Sacramento St. However, if Sacramento St. wanted to leave the Big Sky, and the Big West had a spot for them, it hardly seems like a legal precedent where Sacramento St. would not be permitted to leave the Big Sky. [...]

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