Southern Utah will reap many benefits as members of the Big Sky, including reduced travel costs, ease of scheduling and, at least in the case of football, the opportunity to play for an automatic post-season bid. Last, but certainly not least, SUU's programs will be able to build on natural regional rivalries within the conference rather than with institutions with no geographic ties to Utah.
The Thunderbirds currently compete in The Summit League in the majority of their sports, with the closest conference opponent located in Tulsa, Okla. With the exception of North Dakota, every school in the Big Sky will be closer geographically to SUU than the nearest Summit League institution. That translates into savings in the travel budgets of all sports as well as regional name recognition for the conference rivals.
In the case of football, the Thunderbirds have just four conference games in their current situation but the Big Sky will provide a full schedule of opponents, most likely eight, each year, leaving the team to find just three non-league games a year rather than seven. The Big Sky also has an automatic bid into the 20-team FCS championship, something the Great West does not offer, and with Cal Poly and UC Davis already announcing their intention to leave the GWC, that conference's football future was in doubt.
"We have enjoyed our time in both The Summit League and the Great West Conference," Beazer said. "We have made many friends and developed some rivalries, but moving to the Big Sky is in the best interest of our program as a whole. The Summit League has been good for us and we have been good for The Summit League.
"We will continue to compete for championships in The Summit and Great West through the end of the 2012 spring season and look forward to continuing those rivalries we have developed when we can."
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