More news from the BSC President's meeting.
Big Sky looking at expansion
SDSU will submit official letter of interest
The Big Sky Conference presidents meeting Monday in Salt Lake City gave South Dakota State officials the responses they were looking for.
Yes, the league is strongly considering expansion. And, yes, the Brookings university is a potential target.
The Big Sky, a Division I league which spans seven states, issued a release after the meeting saying the Presidents Council, "discussed adding between one and three schools or remaining at the current eight-team makeup."
"Who knows whether we'll add any schools or three schools. But we established a timeline," Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton said. "We owe it to the schools that are out there, and to the Big Sky for future stability." . . .
Fullerton made calls late Monday afternoon to schools which had already expressed an interest in joining the conference, including SDSU.
"I don't think there are any surprises," said Fred Oien, SDSU's athletic director. "It's really good stuff. We've always said they're a very good conference. We'd be proud to be a member of that conference, should it all work out."
The next step is for those schools which are interested in membership to submit an official letter of interest to the league. Fullerton expected those to be due by Oct. 1.
The Big Sky's presidents also more clearly defined the criteria upon which prospective schools will be judged. Candidates which have already expressed interest in membership - such as SDSU, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah - will receive questionnaires on topics such as:
• Academic quality
• Athletic competitiveness
• Commitment to gender equity
• Commitment to student-athlete success
• Geography with regards to travel distance and time away from school for athletes.
"I think we feel good about what we accomplished today," said Eastern Washington President Stephen Jordan.
Prospective members must also support all 13 of the league's core sports. Of the four mentioned suitors, only SDSU offers all 13 of those sports.
Fullerton added that the two components which could carry greater weight are geography and academics.
"They are a little bit of trump cards," he said. "You could be the greatest school in the world. But if you're in Miami, Florida, we wouldn't take you."
Upon the return of letters of interest and questionnaires, the Big Sky presidents are expected to meet again in November. At that time, Fullerton said, officials from interested schools may be asked to attend and make their sales pitch for inclusion.
Campus visits by Big Sky officials will be scheduled for early in 2005 for schools which are still under consideration for an invitation. A final decision on expansion is expected by April 2005.
"We want to move the process along pretty quickly now," said Geoffrey Gamble, Montana State's president. Gamble took part in the discussion via teleconference due to a canceled flight. . . .
Fullerton said having an odd number of schools in the league benefits football scheduling, while an even number is good for basketball.
"If we have an opportunity to get one institution that matches up to the criteria, we'll take one," he said. "If it's none, it's none. If it's three, it's there."
The presidents of the Mid-Continent Conference, the other league mentioned as a potential home for SDSU, met in early July and said they would continue to examine expansion. . . .