By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The Big West Conference lifted a membership moratorium in place since 2005 in order to give itself flexibility during a time of unsettled conference membership nationwide, Commissioner Dennis Farrell said.
The original moratorium began after ten years of extreme shifting in Big West membership, with members moving into and out of the conference at a rapid rate. In 2005, Farrell said the league was beginning to get comfortable with its new identity as an all-California conference with the addition of UC Davis as it reclassified to Division I.
“We felt that we needed to take a step back and let our membership settle into place,” Farrell said. “We wanted to let the public grow to know our brand and who was in our conference.”
The intervening five years served the Big West well, Farrell believes, with fans becoming familiar with the league and rivalries developing among members.
The conference realignment that began in early June affected every Division I conference west of the Rocky Mountains except the Big West. The conference’s membership decided the “time was right” to lift the moratorium, but the league hasn’t decided to expand and isn’t actively seeking new members at this time.
“We want to be able to react should opportunities present themselves,” Farrell said. “We just feel we should be prepared.”
To that end, the league has asked its members to provide information to the conference office that would help the staff compare any potential members to the current membership. Schools are providing the office with Academic Progress Rates, Graduation Success Rates, sport-sponsorship information, budgetary information and RPIs in the sports that the league sponsors as championship sports. The information will help Farrell and his staff assess whether a potential member is a good fit both athletically and academically.
“We’re only interested (in expansion) if it improves us, if it improves our product on the field and the courts, and if it improves our public perception,” he said. “We’ve not set a timeline. This could be an ongoing process.”
Farrell said the conference’s action puts it on even footing with the other 31 Division I conferences that are likely considering similar scenarios behind closed doors.
“We felt that we needed to have the shackle of a moratorium lifted so we could react – or be active – when appropriate,” he said.
Current Big West members