Cal Poly, UC Davis to join Big Sky in football, more expansion possible

Well, that didn’t take long. Speculation that Cal Poly would be moving to the Big Sky in football was quickly answered, along with another: UC Davis is in, too, and there may be more to come. Could that include Southern Utah?

Here are the highlights of the Big Sky release:

  • Affiliate member-invitations were extended and accepted late last week.
  • Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said the league could grow to 12 teams, with two six-team divisions

Here’s the full release below:

OGDEN, UTAH (Sept. 7, 2010)  – The Big Sky Conference is proud to announce that the University of California, Davis and Cal Poly have accepted invitations to join the league as affiliate members in the sport of football.

Invitations of affiliate membership were extended by Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton with approval of the Presidents’ Council and accepted by both universities late last week.

Cal Poly and UC Davis are both Football Championship Subdivision members that currently compete in the Great West Conference, but participate as members of the Division I Big West Conference for the majority of sports.

“The Big Sky is recognized as one of the top Football Championship Subdivision conferences in the nation,’’ Fullerton said. “The addition of two great institutions like Cal Poly and UC Davis gives us more depth to compete for additional playoff berths and enhances our profile throughout California. This is a great fit for both institutions and the Big Sky Conference. We are bringing in two strong western FCS programs. They will benefit from us in having access to an automatic playoff bid and a full slate of conference games.’’

“We worked in cooperation with Big West Conference Commissioner Dennis Farrell,’’ Fullerton added. “The Big West fully supports this effort, as it gives its two football-playing members a home.’’

A definite timeline has not been set for the programs to officially join the 48-year-old Division I Big Sky Conference, but an effort will be made to work the schools into a conference schedule as quickly as possible. Many Big Sky schools have limited openings in their 2011 schedules, as contracts with non-conference opponents have already been signed. Cal Poly and UC Davis must also comply with withdrawal procedures from the Great West Conference.

Fullerton said this is the first part of an expansion process, an exercise that could lead to a 12-team football conference that would split into two six-team divisions.

“We’re going to look at all options,’’ Fullerton said. “The landscape of college athletics has shifted even more this summer, and with the great diversity of funding and budgets at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, the role of the FCS may became even greater in the coming years. The FCS could become the home for many institutions. We feel like the additions of UC Davis and Cal Poly puts us in front of that momentum.’’

For both Cal Poly and UC Davis, aligning their football programs with the Big Sky offers the opportunity to compete in a conference with an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, continue and renew natural rivalries, and to develop new rivalries by playing the same teams each year.

“This is an extremely exciting day for our football program and the institution,” said Greg Warzecka, director of athletics at UC Davis. “Our fans will not only be able to watch some great teams come to Aggie Stadium, but they will have a much better opportunity to travel to road games.”

“Our goal all along has been to find stability for our football program, and the Big Sky Conference gives us exactly what we needed,” said Cal Poly director of athletics Alison Cone. “The Big Sky Conference is one of the best FCS conferences in the country and offers great competition with teams that are natural rivals in our region.”

The proud football tradition at UC Davis dates back to 1915. The program, which became a full Division I FCS member in 2007, qualified for the Division II playoffs 18 times, and posted 37 consecutive winning seasons from 1970-2006. Notable former Aggies include Boise State coach Chris Petersen, former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, former New York Jets quarterback Ken O’Brien and San Diego Chargers quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan.

UC Davis opened Aggie Stadium in 2007, a multi-purpose stadium with a current capacity of 10,849

Bob Biggs, an alumnus of UC Davis, is in his 18th season as the Aggies head coach. He has compiled a 130-67-1 record, and led his team to an upset of Pac-10 Stanford in 2005. Biggs sports a 12-8 record vs. Big Sky teams.

“We’ve played at least three Big Sky opponents every year since 2004 and look forward to strengthening those existing rivalries while building exciting new ones that fans will identify with,’’ said Warzeck. “The Big Sky is a great fit for us since it solidifies future football schedules while also providing direct access to the postseason through its conference automatic bid.”

Former UC Davis head coach Jim Sochor (1970-88) is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Cal Poly’s football program began in 1915. The Mustangs claimed the 1980 Division II National Championship.

During the last decade, Cal Poly has emerged as a perennial top 25 FCS squad with multiple playoff appearances. The Mustangs advanced to the quarterfinals in 2005, winning at Montana in a first-round game. Cal Poly qualified for the 2008 playoffs, falling to Weber State in the first round at home.

“We’re able to continue our great rivalry with UC Davis and renew rivalries with other west region schools,” Cone said. “This move also allows our student-athletes a great opportunity to vie for a conference championship which provides an automatic berth into the NCAA playoffs. It also provides our fans a chance to see some of the best FCS schools in the country year in and year out.”

Since 2006, Cal Poly has beaten San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference twice and suffered a 36-35 overtime loss to Wisconsin of the Big Ten.

The Mustangs play at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, which holds 11,075. In 2006, the former Mustang Stadium underwent an $8 million renovation project. A $1 million videoboard/scoreboard debuted during the 2009 season.

Current Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh is no stranger to the Big Sky. Walsh guided Big Sky member Portland State from 1993-2006, leading the Vikings during its transition to the Big Sky and the FCS level in 1996. Walsh’s 65 victories while coaching in the league rank sixth in Big Sky history.

Cal Poly defensive players (Jordan Beck, Chris Gocong and Kyle Shotwell) captured three consecutive Buck Buchanan Awards from 2004-06  The Buchanan is awarded to the top defensive player in FCS football each year by The Sports Network. Former Cal Poly standouts included New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden and Gocong, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns.

Cal Poly will play Montana in San Luis Obispo this Saturday. UC Davis meets Portland State on Saturday. The Aggies also have games scheduled this season against Weber State and Causeway Classic rival, Sacramento State.

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4 Responses to Cal Poly, UC Davis to join Big Sky in football, more expansion possible

  1. cody says:

    woo hoo!

    great news

    SUU lookin forward to you next!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. WSU to WAC says:

    They can take our place in the big sky, WSU move up to FBS.

  3. Benny says:

    Isn’t it contradictory to say “move up to FBS” and “move up to WAC? in the same breath?

  4. big sky XII says:

    big sky XII will be stronger than the WAC

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