I just happened to come across this while doing my “news headline browsing”: “Dixie State Exploring Move to Division I Status” (link from Deseret News).
Now, that’s an interesting prospect, given St. George’s proximity to Cedar City and Southern Utah, but then there’s this:
“Dixie State should only consider the transition if the WAC commits to sponsoring football as part of its membership portfolio. The conference confirmed to Collegiate Consulting that it’s ‘initiating a study in the Fall 2018 to explore the options and opportunities of starting a FCS football conference.‘
If the Big Sky Conference powers-that-be weren’t already aware of this, they should be now, and it comes as there is a search for a new commissioner underway.
In the changing landscape of college athletics–mostly focused on football–it’s important that a conference keep its membership happy. There were a number of issues beginning to take shape with the now-departed Andrea Williams, and a start of a study to see if the WAC could handle adding FCS football would have been perfect for those upset with the Big Sky’s operations over her stint.
That said, the ONLY way FCS football works for the WAC is with defections from the Big Sky. Whether it’s affiliate members Cal Poly and UC Davis electing to make a move or more entrenched schools electing making a change, the Big Sky is going to be targeted by this.
The only school in the WAC currently playing football is New Mexico State, who is playing as an independent at the FBS level with an apparent lack of a chance at moving into a conference unless it moves down. The other schools are California Baptist; Cal State – Bakersfield; Chicago State; Grand Canyon University; Missouri-Kansas City; Seattle; Texas-Rio Grande Valley; and Utah Valley. Chicago State is problematic with the ongoing budget problems in Illinois and has been long rumored to be considering shutting down athletics or dropping classification.
If the WAC, New Mexico State and Dixie State make such a move, there would have to be at least 4 other teams to make an FCS conference feasible, in my opinion. But, say, the two schools I previously mentioned (UCD, CP) elect to join, that gives the WAC four. Who else would be interested in moving from the Big Sky?
Now, again, I’m just hazarding guesses here. I’m not stating that there are any clear indications from any of the Big Sky schools that they would even consider a move because I haven’t caught wind of any. But, this does open up some questions going forward for the conference at a time that it is searching for a new leader.