Bigger, better Big Sky ready for a new year

Jul 16 2012 - 9:02pm

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New the Big Sky Conference logo
Football players model new uniforms as the Big Sky Conference unveils new conference logos and uniforms at the league’s Summer Kickoff in Park City on Monday. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
New the Big Sky Conference logo
Football players model new uniforms as the Big Sky Conference unveils new conference logos and uniforms at the league’s Summer Kickoff in Park City on Monday. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)

PARK CITY -- The Big Sky Conference has a new look -- on paper, online and on the field.

The league rolled out the red carpet here Monday to introduce its newest members and rolled out a new logo to reintroduce itself in an effort to brand itself as a top-tier Football Championship Subdivision conference.

The Big Sky Conference, which officially added Southern Utah and North Dakota as full members and UC Davis and Cal Poly as football-only members on July 1, unveiled a logo featuring a panel representing the sky above a mountain range. The logo is in light blue and a darker blue but can be represented in the colors of all of the league's member schools.

The conference will also use the tagline "The Heart of the American West," in line with its larger ambition of being seen as one of the top athletic conferences in the West behind the Pac-12 and Mountain West, a goal aided by the decimation of the Western Athletic Conference.

Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton said the league's university presidents felt like the additions of new schools could make an impact at the FCS level and in the western U.S.

"That has all come to pass," Fullerton said in his state of the conference address Monday at the league's summer kickoff event.

"If you think about it, there are now three football playing conferences in the West -- the Pac-12, the Mountain West and the Big Sky -- and we were able to do that without going (Football Bowl Subdivision), without spending the money, without chasing the $140 million budgets, and yet we've positioned ourselves so that, if that opportunity arises, we're the first ones that will make the move. We really are in a perfect position. We've added stability to the West, and I just don't think we're going to have people looking to move at this point in time."

Unless it's an addition, which would bring the Big Sky Conference to even numbers at 12 full members and 14 football playing schools.

The WAC, which will only have Idaho and New Mexico State remaining as football-playing schools after this season, is a logical place to look for that final piece of the puzzle, particularly Idaho, which is in the league's footprint and was a former Big Sky power before moving to the FBS level.

Monday, Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke showed off a new uniform for the Wildcats -- a purple jersey with "Weber State" in a scrawl font on the front and claw marks on the sleeves. He also showed the team's new helmet, featuring the school's new logo, the head of a wildcat, in place of the old shield logo on a purple background.

Hoke said the new members of the conference should improve the school's chances of an FCS playoff berth.

"It's real tough, but at the very least, we should get three teams in at least and hopefully four," he said. "It's a good thing."

With the expanded conference, Weber State won't play every school in the league every season, but it will face geographic rivals Southern Utah and Idaho State each year.

"Having a Utah school will help out a lot in the state, people knowing more about Weber and Southern Utah because we have those bigger schools overshadowing us a little bit," Hoke said. "It has the potential to be a real good rivalry because it's two good schools and both kind of on the rise."

SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen was named the Big Sky preseason offensive player of the year. He won the postseason offensive player of the year last season in his old conference, the Great West.

"It's going to be exciting, all the great schools we have in the Big Sky, now having 13 teams, I think we're one of the better conferences in the nation," he said.

"It's going to be that much more exposure for both our universities, create some more contention in the state. It's going to be fun on a yearly basis."

Cal Poly QB Andre Broadous led his team to the Great West title last year.

"We knew we were changing leagues, but we weren't sure where," Broadous said. "When we heard the Big Sky, we were happy about that decision. Some of our conference mates from last year joined as well, we get to play our rivals, UC Davis.

"It's real big for our program. We're all excited about it."

Eastern Washington wide receiver Nicholas Edwards said he likes the new look of the conference logo.

"I love it already," he said. "I love how it's customized to each team. I love the red and black in it with the Rocky Mountains on it."

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