The Big Sky Conference basketball tournament will feature an eighth team next season and the conference will look into breaking into divisions in some sports, conference officials announced Wednesday in a news release.
Previously seven teams of the Big Sky’s 11 schools qualified for the conference’s basketball tournament. The No. 1 seed would receive a bye before taking on the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals.
However, with the conference adding the University of Idaho for all sports excluding football July 1, an eighth seed has been added to the conference tournament. In addition, the top seed will no longer have a bye in the tournament.
Those changes will be take effect next season.
The BSC may even ditch its current system of the conference tournament location. It currently is one a few Div. I conferences that does not have a neutral site for tournaments. Tournaments are instead hosted by the school with the No. 1 seed.
"Our school administrators and coaches have raised valid concerns, including travel costs, travel logistics, student-athlete welfare, and fan experience,” said Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton in the release. “We need to continue to have discussions regarding how many teams will qualify, and if we move to a predetermined site, where that will be and if the location will be the same for the men and the women."
However, those changes, if made, would not go into effect until 2016, conference officials said.
The conference will also look into breaking into two divisions for volleyball. Weber State and Southern Utah University would be in the south division, alongside Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Portland State and Sacramento State.
Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado, Montana, Montana State, Idaho and North Dakota would comprise the northern division.
The conference will also sponsor men’s golf for the first time since 2002 beginning next season. Weber State, SUU, Idaho, North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Sacramento State currently sponsor the sport.
The conference will add Hartford and Binghamton for the men’s golf. Both schools were a part of the America Sky Conference in the sport, but the conference will be absorbed into the Big Sky for golf only.
Football is the only sport in the conference unaffected by the announced changes. The conference features 13 teams in football.