Big Sky brings UC Davis, Cal Poly

Marshall Hampson

The Big Sky Conference has been extended to 11 schools for 2012 as UC Davis and Cal Poly accepted invitations from the conference to become members for football.

On Sept. 7, Cal Poly announced the move at a press conference weeks after UC Davis and Sacramento State were speculated to move into the Western Athletic Conference from WAC Commissioner Karl Benson. The moves to the Big Sky Conference will start at the 2012 season because of the lack of openings in the current Big Sky schedule for 2011.

Both Cal Poly and UC Davis will remain in the Big West Conference for every sport besides football.

Big Sky Conference Associate Commissioner Ron Loghry said bringing these two high-powered Football Conference Subdivision teams will help competition.

“For one, it strengthens the football in our conference,” Loghry said. “This also protects the conference with all the rumors and the talk out there about some teams wanting to go to the WAC.”

Now that the conference has 11 teams, thoughts of breaking the conference into two, six-teams divisions have been taken into consideration once the 12th team is in the Big Sky Conference. But Loghry said discussions regarding divisions will not be held until the Big Sky Conference President’s meeting in October.

The biggest change for Sac State’s football program is the school’s rival, UC Davis, is now in the same conference.

“It takes our game against UC Davis from a non-conference game to a conference game and it’s something that our fans will like because it takes on more meaning,” said Sac State’s Athletic Director Terry Wanless.

Like Sac State, Cal Poly also has a rivalry with UC Davis in the Big West Conference. Cal Poly’s Athletic Director Alison Cone said she believes the Big Sky Conference made the right decision taking in the university.

“What was so appealing about the Big Sky was the opportunity to play really good competition in the western part of the United States,” Cone said. “And also, it’s good competition on a week-to-week basis. Everything about it was the right fit.”

Cone said she is glad that the decision was made to bring both them and UC Davis into the conference.

“UC Davis is our No. 1 rival in football,” Cone said. “I know UC Davis already has a huge rivalry with Sac State, so it was really important for us to maintain the rivalry because we have such a healthy one with UC Davis.”

UC Davis Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations Mike Robles said the new conference is also helping the university beyond the rivalries.

“It also helps us from a cost-containment standpoint,” Robles said. “If we’re playing a far away team, it’s going to be hard for a lot of our fans to travel. But now, our fans have an opportunity to travel with us.”

The Hornets and Aggies battle for the Causeway Cup every year. Last year, UC Davis won the Causeway Cup, but the Causeway Classic football game held every year will now be a conference game starting 2012. Sac State won last year’s Causeway Classic 31-28. Robles said the move allows UC Davis for a better competition in the new conference.

“It’s nice to have a good conference schedule built in,” Robles said. “We’re having to find a lot of non-conference games each year and that’s difficult to do.”

Marshall Hampson can be reached at sports@statehornet.com