The great conference shuffle

It’s been easy to look with envy at neighboring universities in regards to NCAA status. In one year we’ve seen:

 

  • Utah move to the PAC-12
  • BYU’s earn its own time slot on ESPN,
  • Utah State refuse to help UVU in its bid for an invite to the Western Athletic Conference

 

When the dust cleared, Utah Valley was still in the Great West Conference, a collection of who-are-they-again’s ranging from California to New Jersey. With North Dakota and Houston Baptist slated to leave, the GWC appeared to be transitioning from “far apart” to “falling apart.”

 

Great West commissioner Ed Grom, however, believes the Great West can further its standing from a home for the homeless to a key transition conference for programs making the leap from Division II to Division I athletics.

 

As for the conference’s geographic variety, Grom half-jokingly called the GWC a “trend-setter,” referring to the Big East’s football expansion that included Boise State, San Diego State and Houston University.

 

“That doesn’t sound like ‘Big East’ to me,” he laughed.

 

Like the Big East, Grom hopes the Great West can field enough members to field east and west divisions, adding further prominence to conference championships while reducing travel time and costs.

 

A key step for Grom’s hopes will take place this week. Grom confirmed the Great West has secured a meeting at Wednesday’s NCAA convention to request the GWC be given multi-sport status. Should the be granted, Grom said the conference would then issue invitations to Independent NCAA members, specifically mentioning Longwood University and CSU-Bakersfield.

 

Multi-sport status would put the conference on par with other, more well-known non-AQ conferences while giving it additional privileges, including voting rights and opportunities to be on NCAA committees. UVU president Matthew Holland will present the conference’s request Wednesday, just months after he presented to the WAC on Utah Valley’s behalf.

 

Last year the NCAA revised conference requirements, stating seven members with at least eight years of Division I experience are required for multi-sport consideration. Texas Pan American is the only Great West member that has been Division I for that long.

 

The GWC, however, is hoping to be grandfathered in based on the previous multi-sport requirements set in 2007, when the conference went from football-only to all sports. At that time, conferences seeking multi-sport status only needed six Division I members with no minimum experience required.

 

The move for solidarity and expansion comes after seeing multiple programs leave the conference and Utah Valley looking to do the same. Grom, however, did not begrudge the more successful members for seeking greener pastures.

 

“We knew that there’d be several members who might have a better opportunity to get into conferences,” Grom said. “With Utah Valley’s success in our conference as well as regionally, I would think they would have been an attractive candidate for a conference like the WAC.”

 

Ironically, the Wolverines men’s basketball team plays a home-and-home series this week against Seattle University, the school the WAC chose over Utah Valley last year.

 

By Matt Petersen – Sports Editor

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