UVU joins new sports conference

Published: Thursday, July 10 2008 12:03 a.m. MDT

First a new name, and now a new conference.

In a noon news conference today, Utah Valley University officials will announce its athletics affiliation with the Great West Conference for the Wolverines' sports programs.

Earlier this month, Utah Valley University — formerly known as Utah Valley State College — received its new institutional name.

"New" is the buzzword for the Great West Conference as well, since it is moving from a football-only league — the Great West Football Conference — to an all-sports offering. It's also going to great lengths — literally and figuratively — to become a geographically diverse league.

Joining the Great West today is a sextet of universities — Utah Valley, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas Pan American, Houston Baptist and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Chicago State and Seattle are expected to follow soon into the Great West Conference; Cal State Bakersfield, Longhurst and Savannah State are said to have declined their invitations in hopes of aligning themselves in other conferences.

Officially announced Feb. 25, 2004, the GWFC's six charter-members universities were Southern Utah, Cal Poly, UC Davis, Northern Colorado, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. The latter three have since moved or announced intentions to move to other conferences.

The Great West Conference will now essentially become two different leagues. The football conference will feature holdovers SUU, Cal Poly and UC Davis and newcomers North Dakota and South Dakota.

The five football programs are all Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) programs that participate in a postseason playoff system, unlike the Football Bowl Series (Division I-A) programs and their postseason bowls.

All other sports in the Great West besides football will involve the two Dakotas, UVU, UTPA, HBU and NJIT as well as Chicago State and Seattle if and when they join.

For intercollegiate sports other than football, SUU will continue to compete in the Summit Conference and Cal Poly and UC Davis in the Big West Conference — both leagues allowing those teams a chance for automatic conference berths in NCAA tournaments, such as men's basketball.

UVU and the other Great West newcomers are provisional NCAA institutions that are awaiting to be granted — or appealing — Division I status. (Utah Valley's provisional status ends at the end of the 2008-09 year.) Until that happens, the provisional programs are not allowed to compete in NCAA-sponsored postseason competition.

The Great West wouldn't be considered an official NCAA member conference until August 2011 at the earliest — the moratorium on creating new Division I conferences is in effect until then.

And it will likely be much longer than that, since the NCAA requires six full-status Division I member institutions — and many of the Great West newcomers have a longer wait than Utah Valley's single year.

Conference tournaments in the Great West could be realized as early as the 2008-09 season; however, it will likely not be until 2009-10 that conference schedules and postseason play in all sports are complete and finalized.

Utah Valley already has been playing many of its fellow Great West newcomers in different sports for the past several years.


E-mail: staylor@desnews.com

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