OGDEN -- For the Wildcats, Bengals, Grizzlies and Bobcats, it's time to dust off the welcome wagon.
On July 1, the Big Sky Conference will officially welcome Southern Utah and North Dakota as full members, and also admit UC Davis and Cal Poly as football affiliate members.
The additions bring the Big Sky to 11 full members and 13 football-playing schools. The upcoming expansion means plenty of changes for the upcoming intercollegiate athletic season.
"With new schools and enough teams to have an automatic qualifier (to the NCAA Tournament), having our own conference allows us to include softball in our All-Sports Trophy and Presidents Cup standings," Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee said.
Having enough softball-playing teams in the league also allows the Wildcats softball squad to be part of the Big Sky family, he said.
Weber State, along with Idaho State, Montana and Montana State, are what's left of the original six charter members of the league. Northern Arizona joined the league in 1970, giving the Big Sky five members with at least 40 years of continuous membership.
Tuesday, the Big Sky released updated championship formats and schedules for the upcoming season.
* For the first time, the Big Sky will sponsor a championship in women's softball. Idaho State, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah, and Weber State currently field teams. Montana has plans to add the sport.
The first Big Sky softball championship will be played May 9-11 at the site of the regular-season champion. The top four teams will advance to the postseason tournament. The winner will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
* In football, teams will continue to play an eight-game conference schedule. Each team will play a two "rivals" each season, and rotate through the remaining teams. A tiebreaker format has been formulated to determine who will earn the league's automatic bid to the Division I Football Championship.
* The men's and women's basketball championships will become seven-team tournaments, one more than the previous format. Both tournaments will be played March 14-16 at the site of the respective regular-season champion.
The No. 1 seed will earn a bye to the semifinals on Friday. During the past decade, the men's tournament had a Saturday, Tuesday-Wednesday format with the regular-season champion hosting the semifinals and championship.
The top seven men's and women's team will qualify for the Big Sky Championship.
The volleyball and tennis championships will add more teams.
* Volleyball will return to a six-team format, as it was from 1996-2008. The championship will continued to be played at the site of the previous regular-season champion. The 2012 championship will be held at Northern Colorado's Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion. The tourney will be played Nov. 23-24 with quarterfinal matches on Friday morning, followed by semifinal matches in the evening.
* Tennis will also return to a six-team format. The championship will be played April 26-28, 2013 at the Gold River Racquet Club in Gold River, Calif.
* Soccer will remain a four-team championship. It will be played either Nov. 1, 3, or Nov. 2, 4 at the site of the regular-season champion.
Soccer will continue to play a single round-robin regular-season schedule. With the addition of Southern Utah and North Dakota, squads will now play nine conference matches.
* Cross Country, indoor and outdoor track and field, and golf will continue to send all teams to championships. The cross country championship is Oct. 27 in Flagstaff, Ariz. Bozeman, Mont., will play host to the indoor championship Feb. 22-23, 2013. The outdoor championship will be May 8-11, 2013 in Portland, Ore.
* The golf championship will remain at the Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Ariz. For the second consecutive year, the golfers will play competitive rounds on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The dates are April 21-23, 2013.
On July 16 in Park City, the Big Sky Conference will unveil its new logo.
Big Sky 2012-13 championship schedule
Sport Date Locatation Teams
Cross Country Oct. 27 Flagstaff, Ariz. 11
Soccer Nov. 1-4 Season champion 4
Volleyball Nov. 23-24 Greeley, Colo. 6
Indoor Track/field Feb. 22-23 Bozeman, Mont. 11
Men's basketball March 14-16 Season champion 7
Women's basketball March 14-16 Season champion 7
Women's golf April 21-23 Chandler, Ariz. 11
Ocotillo Golf Resort
Tennis April 26-28 Gold River, Calif. 6
Gold River Racquet Club
Outdoor Track/field May 8-11 Portland, Ore. 11
Softball May 9-11 Season champion 4