There's an interview online that's worth your time. Doug Fullerton, commissioner of the Big Sky, was interviewed by KTIK radio about both Idaho potentially joining the Big Sky and some sort of a possible deal with the Western Athletic Conference that potentially could involve some Big Sky schools effectively moving over to the WAC. (For the interview, click here and then click on the "Big Sky Commish-Doug Fullerton on discussions with Idaho" link)
One big advantage for the Big Sky teams would be that there would be an additional automatic bid for the NCAA basketball tournaments (since the teams would be spread over two conferences and not just one). There could also be scheduling and travel advantages as well.
So, I said what the heck ... and I made up my own plan for the conferences.
I'm going to assume that Idaho moves its football program down to FCS, while New Mexico State continues its football program in FBS as an independent (I think it's a reasonable possibility for NMSU, but not for Idaho). I'll also assume (for now) that the Big West rejects Boise State and they end up in this group.
Here's the proposed agreement between the two conferences:
- All FCS football teams remain in the Big Sky Conference for football;
- If the Big Sky loses a member (or members), it can bring back one of its former members from the WAC (with that school's agreement) with no exit/entrance fee to be paid;
- The two conferences have permanent scheduling agreements for inter-conference games in basketball and (if desired) in other sports;
- If there are a small number of teams for a particular sport (but enough between the two conferences to sponsor the sport), the sport will be sponsored by the Big Sky unless a large majority (e.g. 2/3 or more) of the members are WAC members (e.g. baseball);
- The arrangement is agreed to for a period of six years; after that time, if the teams and conferences are not happy, the teams will return to their original conferences.
With that in mind, here are your conference lineups:
Big Sky Conference (Olympic sports):
Seattle, Portland State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Boise State, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota
Western Athletic Conference (Olympic sports):
Sacramento State, Cal State Bakersfield, Weber State, Utah Valley, Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Denver, New Mexico State
Big Sky Conference (FCS Football):
Northern Division: Portland State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota
Southern Division: UC Davis, Sacramento State, Cal Poly, Weber State, Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado
A summary of the changes:
- Idaho drops its football program to FCS and joins the Big Sky
- Idaho and Seattle move their Olympic sports from the WAC to the Big Sky
- Sacramento State, Weber State, Southern Utah, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado move their Olympic sports from the Big Sky to the WAC
- Cal State Bakersfield (independent) and Utah Valley (Great West) join the WAC
Also of note .. several of the teams are still looking to move elsewhere (Cal State Bakersfield, Seattle, possibly Denver, possibly North Dakota). This could affect the arrangement if they do eventually receive an invite to their preferred conference, but for now they fit very well into this plan.
There would be shorter flights for travel (and simply bus rides in a few cases), only one "outpost" school (North Dakota), regional rivalries could be strengthened, and of course there would be two bids for the NCAA tournaments.
Geographic sanity in conference alignment ... maybe it's still possible.