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Big Sky Conference Deals With Expansion
The Big Sky Conference had to send out a few extra invitations to its spring meetings with expansion on the horizon in 2012.
Representatives from the four schools joining the league in 2012 - Cal Poly and UC Davis for football only, and Southern Utah and North Dakota for all sports - will join the current nine Big Sky schools Tuesday for meetings in Salt Lake City. Committee meetings actually began on Monday, but the bulk of the discussions are set for Tuesday.
There are no earth-shattering subjects on the agenda and whatever recommendations are made will have to be approved by the league presidents when they meet in Park City on June 1-2.
“I think the biggest thing right now is for us to get a handle on the expansion of the Big Sky Conference in another year,” Montana athletic director Jim O’Day said. “We need to come out of the meeting knowing how we’re going to crown our champions, for example in football, what are procedures in our tournaments are going to be, for example in men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, and how many teams are going to go into the playoffs. We have to be able to look at those with the addition of new teams and see if they are the right numbers.
“At the same time in the back of our minds we have to remember that the presidents wanted us to really watch our budgets while we’re doing this. There’s a lot of challenges ahead in those areas.”
When the league expands to 13 teams for football, it will be impossible to play a round-robin schedule. So the league needs to determine how it will break a tie for first place and award the Big Sky’s automatic bid into the FCS playoffs.
O’Day said the tie-breaking format currently being debated would use head-to-head results as the first tie-breaker. The second would be the record against common league opponents in descending order. The third would be record against common nonconference opponents within the league (teams can schedule nonconference games against other Big Sky teams they are not scheduled to play in a given year).
The fourth tie-breaker would be record against common nonconference opponents. The fifth step would be to use the Sagarin ratings. If all that fails to break a tie, the league would fall back on the time-honored coin flip.
“Another one that we’ll be looking at closely is this is the last year of our television package,” O’Day said. “There are various options out there. This is the one where KPAX has Montana, where Max Media has Montana State and then Altitude throws in a couple games here and there. … There are many people who are looking at our television opportunities. This meeting will give us an opportunity to begin exploring what we’re looking for in terms of the future.”
Although it’s not on the agenda, O’Day said he expects discussion on the possibility of going to a predetermined site for the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The league currently awards the tournaments to the regular-season champion.
“I think that’s one of the things that I think more of the ADs right now are starting to look at a little more seriously than we have in the past because of the economic changes, the cost of getting to places, how hard it was for so many teams - we saw that this year in men’s and women’s basketball - to get to various locations in a short period of time,” O’Day said. “I believe that we will have some discussion on that.”
Some of the other topics up for discussion include:
* The number of teams to invite to the league volleyball tournament. It currently stands at four.
* The number of teams to invite to the league tennis tournament. It currently stands at four.
* The possibility of inviting all 11 tennis teams to the league championship beginning in 2013 while doing away with a regular-season round-robin schedule.
* Creating a goalkeeper of the year award for soccer.
* Setting the dates for the soccer championship.
* The possible addition of video monitors at all basketball games for the purpose of instant replay.
By Bob Meseroll, The Missoulian