Although an all-sports division may soon be added within the Great West, currently a football-only conference, such change likely wouldn’t directly impact Cal Poly, nor its four other football competitors, because new entrants almost certainly would be football-less, conference and school officials said Thursday.
“It wouldn’t affect (the football quintet) at all,” Great West commissioner Ed Grom said. “The premise of this idea came about in the same kind of way as the Great West did originally; there are some independent schools out there with sports that need a home, and the idea was put out there to see if we could provide them one.”
The concept, first reported Tuesday by McAllen, Texas’ The Monitor, has been discussed since about May 1, Grom said.
According to the report, among independents interested in the conference are Texas-Pan American (the only one whose intrigue Grom confirmed), Utah Valley State, Chicago State, Longwood (of Farmville, Va.) and New Jersey Institute of Technology – none of which play football.
While Cal Poly, which competes in the Big West Conference in 17 of its 20 sports (wrestling is in the Pac-10; women’s indoor track belongs to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation), probably wouldn’t get any football company from that bunch, the Great West’s enhanced breadth and profile would figure to only help the ongoing search to add to its Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) contingent.
“Any time you get exposure in different regions, it would help out as a whole,” said Longwood athletics director Troy Austin, who added that other independents he’s recently spoken with haven’t indicated possibly adding football programs.
Even so, Austin said, regardless of the possible “collaboration of independents to help each other schedule,” Longwood has a “never-say-never” consideration of football.
“We’re always assessing possibilities,” he said. “We wouldn’t eliminate the idea. It’s a pretty big sport and helps the university in a lot of ways, but right now we have no formal plans to add it. We’re focused on building the sports we already have.”
Grom said the all-sports division was endorsed by athletics directors currently within the Great West – at Cal Poly, UC Davis, Southern Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota – so long as it wouldn’t require the membership of their schools’ other sports.
“We have a really good fit for all our non-football sports in the Big West,” said Alison Cone, Cal Poly’s athletics director. “Our interest in the arrangement would strictly be for football, not other sports.”
Benefits to Cal Poly of the four-year-old Great West Football Conference incorporating a sixth team would be twofold.
First, it would alleviate non-conference scheduling difficulties, which resulted in a slate this upcoming season featuring twice as many games in the Central time zone (four) as against California opponents (two) and assembled with several reportedly six-figure appearance-fee contracts (totaling at least $780,000).
Perhaps more importantly, it would eventually satisfy the required six-member standard necessary for an automatic postseason bid.
Cone, unsure of “where the sixth team would come from,” said she’s “fairly confident” that a sixth member will be added eventually.
“There’s always a possibility of adding,” Grom said, although he declined to divulge foremost would-be newcomers. “I think you might find that happen in coming years.”
Grom said campuses are still “mulling over” the all-sports division; Austin said “some type of significant announcement” could be made before mid-July.