After years of feeling left out, Utah State is something of a Conference darling this season.
It seems only fitting. A school in the mountains of northern Utah never seemed quite at home in a conference named the Pacific Coast Athletic Association.But in a move designed to boost the conference's identity, the PCAA became the Big West this summer. Even the coaches are trying to get used to the name change, but few are more pleased than Utah State's Chuck Shelton.
"We had New Mexico State, (Nevada) Las Vegas and us, and it meant nothing," Shelton said. "I always thought it hurt us to be in a league with Pacific Coast in the name. It hurt our identity and our recruiting. I was only concerned that they were going to call it the Wild West."
The Aggies may be all the more emblematic of the conference because of their schedule. They open the season Saturday against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb.
Playing road games against big-name programs for guarantees of $200,000 and more has become almost a standard in the conference.
Shelton, like other coaches, considers it a necessary task, and a chance for a bit of that commodity so much desired in the Big West: attention.