Posted: Sep 7, 2010 4:04 PM by Mark Holyoak - KPAX Missoula
OGDEN, UT - The Big Sky Conference announced that Cal Poly and the University of California-Davis accepted invitations to join the league as affiliate members in football.
They will continue to participate as members of the Big West Conference for the majority of other sports. A timeline to officially join the conference is not yet set, but some Big Sky schools do have openings in their 2011 schedules.
"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," said Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton. "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.''
The Big Sky Conference extended invitations to the two universities late last week. Cal Poly and UC Davis must now comply with withdrawal procedures from the Great West Conference.
When asked prior to the official announcement about the possibility of adding Cal Poly to the Big Sky Conference, University of Montana head football coach Robin Pflugrad applauded the move. "They bring in a great academic institution. There's no question about that. I'm very familiar with that university having played there when I was playing at Portland State," said Pflugrad. "It's absolutely a tremendous school and they're competitive in everything they do on and off the football field and in the classroom."
The University of Montana and Cal Poly have an extensive, but one-sided history. UM leads the all-time matchup with a 13-1 record. The only loss was a 35-21 defeat in the 2005 playoffs. The Grizzlies also have an all-time record of 4-0 versus UC Davis.
"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."
Fullerton said this is the first part of an expansion process that could lead to a 12-team football conference split into two six-team divisions.
"We're going to look at all options. 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," said Fullerton. "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.''
UC Davis began its football program in 1915. It qualified for the Division II playoffs 18 times and posted 37 consecutive winning seasons from 1970-2006. It became a Division I FCS member in 2007. 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 compiled a 130-67-1 record, and led his team to an upset of Pac-10 Stanford in 2005. Biggs has a 12-8 record versus 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."
Cal Poly's football program began in 1915. The Mustangs claimed the 1980 Division II National Championship. The Mustangs advanced to the FCS quarterfinals in 2005 after winning a first-round game in Missoula over the Grizzlies.
"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 beat 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 led Big Sky member Portland State from 1993-2006, coaching 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. 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 rival Sacramento State.