The Big Sky Conference showed off its nifty new logo and four new football-playing schools at its media kickoff Monday morning in Park City.
The logo is nice and clean-looking, definitely a plus for the conference.
And the addition of Southern Utah and North Dakota as full members of the conference, plus UC Davis and Cal Poly as football-only members, brings the Big Sky to a healthy, happy 13 teams.
The question is, is 13 enough?
Commissioner Doug Fullerton said it’s not.
In his state-of-the-conference address, Fullerton intimated the conference wouldn’t mind expanding to an even number of teams. After all, 13 creates a challenge when it comes to scheduling. For the time being, each of the 13 teams will play an eight-game conference schedule featuring two geographic rivals.
For Weber State, that means SUU and Idaho State every year.
But on Monday, Fullerton mentioned the possibility of adding another school for an even-number 14.
This is good news for Weber State fans in particular and college football fans in general … especially those who enjoy the wide-open, exciting level of play in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision.
The Big Sky is already a major player in FCS football, but with these new additions and the possibility of another — and perhaps two divisions? — it makes the conference even more powerful and attractive to fans.
“We’ve been in conversations with Idaho and New Mexico and the (Western Athletic Conference) in general,” Fullerton said. “We’re sitting in a place where we can dictate what we want to do.”
Idaho, a former Big Sky member, seems to be the most obvious choice.
The Vandals spent 33 years in the Big Sky before leaving along with Boise State back in 1996.
Anyone who follows college athletics knows Boise State hit a home run, especially in football, where the Broncos have demanded national attention.
The Vandals, on the other hand, haven’t fared nearly as well. They went from the Big West in 1996 to the WAC in 2005.
When it comes to football, the WAC is on its last legs. After this season, only Idaho and New Mexico State will remain and, well shoot, it’s hard to play an 11-game schedule.
Neither school really wants to try its hand at independence, but they’re essentially faced with the option of that or “dropping down” to the FCS level.
Two things here: No. 1, neither the Aggies nor the Vandals are tearing up the FBS level, so why wouldn’t they want to compete at the FCS level? No. 2, what’s wrong with the FCS division? They have a playoff system and that’s wildly appealing. And while their teams don’t have the same depth as the bigger, FBS schools, their brand of football is open, exciting and highly competitive.
Look, the Big Sky doesn’t need me or anyone else to do its bidding. The conference is as healthy now as it’s ever been and with four new football programs it’s in position to control the West.
Idaho would be foolish not to accept the Big Sky’s invitation. Yes, in some ways it will look as though the Vandals are taking a step back and admitted they couldn’t make it in the FBS world (unlike Boise State). No doubt some of their fans and alumni will balk at the notion of returning to the conference they left 16 years ago.
But it very well could happen .. and soon.
“We’re deeply involved in that conversation,” Fullerton said.
A return to the Big Sky would be a great move for the Vandals, but doing so certainly will be a tricky proposition for Idaho’s decision-makers. They’ll probably need to experience failure as an independent before fully embracing what the Big Sky has to offer. However, once they do, the Vandals and their fans will quickly see the benefits and, I believe, will see some much-needed success at the FCS level.
The landscape of college football in the West is changing and the Big Sky is in position to control its destiny.
If Idaho — or New Mexico State — wants to come along for the ride and make an even 14-team football conference, they’ll benefit from the move.
“There’s an opportunity there,” Fullerton said.
Yes, there certainly is.