Sunday, August 19, 2012

Idaho's Non-Football Sports Reportedly Coming to Big Sky

This became big news late last week, as Idaho was granted permission to explore independent football, which would of course mean that the rest of their sports would need a home.

Idaho's athletic website said that the Vandals' athletic director and president are "looking at the possibility of returning other sports to the Big Sky Conference," and that a decision will be made in the next three weeks.

Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman is reporting that they will be moving to the Big Sky, and his notes from the teleconference certainly suggest that it is all but a done deal. While they are going to attempt football independence, there is not a lot of other places for them to go.

Idaho told the state board about its plans during an executive session Wednesday. In its documents to the state board, Idaho cites the re-establishment of historic rivalries, more regional travel and reduced costs and loss of academic class time for student-athletes.

Idaho was a charter member of the Big Sky in 1963 and played in the league until 1996.

Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton told the Statesman on Wednesday that he would accept the Vandals under that arrangement.

"I would support that. It's not what we asked when we invited them," Fullerton said. "But I understand the concept."
Many have said that the Big Sky should tell Idaho that if they want to join the conference, they should join in football as well, but it appears that the conference will not take that stance for now. One of the big reasons, I would guess, is that with so many challenging factors for Idaho as an independent, there has to be a strong thought within the Big Sky that Idaho will be joining the conference as a full member in 2015.

For basketball, it is an interesting situation. It gets the conference up to a more convention 12 teams rather than 11 teams, which may mean that it makes sense to split into two divisions. That would be an interesting split because of all of the rivalries involved. My guess would be that we would see some type of split like this:

Eastern Washington
Montana State
North Dakota
Northern Colorado
Portland State

Idaho State
Northern Arizona
Southern Utah
Sacramento State
Weber State

All speculation obviously, but that makes sense to me. The other thing is that it likely means that each team playing every other team in the conference twice will likely be a one season proposition. 20 conference games (which will happen this year) is already pushing it a bit, and increasing it to 22 conference games does not seem realistic at all. I would expect something along the lines of 16-18 conference games once (and if) Idaho joins the Big Sky.

Thoughts? Some of you have been following the Big Sky a lot longer than me and likely remember the days of Idaho being a member of the Big Sky... do you like the idea of them re-joining the conference?

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  1. Idaho has always been an odd cookie. They really don't want much to do with ISU - never did - and they felt the same about Boise State. That is, until Boise State grew and surpassed them in size and in football. That being said, I bet your divisions are pretty spot on with the exception of Idaho. Switch them and Portland State, and I think that's what we might be looking at.

  2. I don't think this move surprises too many people. The WAC has been a consistent train wreck the last 2 years and this should finally put that conference down for good. I like the addition as it can split the BSC into divisions and reduce some travel expenses. Having said that, here is my shot at the travel partner situation (based on geography/ease of travel):

    Sac State/Portland State
    Weber State/Idaho State
    Northern Arizona/Southern Utah

    Eastern Washington/Idaho
    Montana/ Montana State
    North Dakota/ Northern Colorado

    Maybe EWU/UI and WSU/ISU swap divisions but for the most part the Idaho addition should make for some clear cut partners.

    On the scheduling side of things, I'd like to see 18 BSC games. 2 against all divisional opponents (1 home and 1 away for each opponent) and 6 cross divisional games (3 home and 3 away with 1 game against each program). The home/away games against the cross divisional opponents could rotate every year.

    And for the love of God can the BSC please pre-select a conference tournament site in advance to allow for fans to even have a legit shot at making travel plans. Rotate the site among a few on-campus locations since they do not seem to be warming up to the idea of a neutral site venue.


    1. I meant 16 BSC games.

    2. I'm mixed on the neutral site idea. I like the idea of allowing fans to have enough time to make plans and get AFFORDABLE tickets to a neutral site. On the other hand, I just don't see a lot of fans wanting to buy tickets in, let's say Boise, to watch North Dakota take on NAU.

      Look at this past season's WAC and Big Sky tournaments. The WAC played in Las Vegas, and the most attended game was the semi-final men's game with Nevada - and it drew around 2,300. The WAC final drew 1,400, and it wasn't a great environment for TV. The Big Sky final drew 7,000, and it was a rowdy and fun environment on TV.

      Even the Big Sky tournament women's final in Pocatello drew 2,200, which was a lot more than the 600 fans who watched the WAC women's final. Yeah, the Big Sky women's final outdrew BOTH the WAC men's and women's tournament finals.

    3. Good point and that is no doubt the main reason the BSC has kept the location setup as it is (also a good indication as to why the WAC died). However rotating it among a handful of BSC member venues (taking into consideration venue capacity and geography) could still be a viable option.

  3. And I forgot to add that the BSC should consider taking the top 8 teams in the standings into the BSC Tournament now that we potentially will be at 12 members.


  4. Nice article, thanks for the information.