February 25, 2004
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CEDAR CITY, Utah - Seven intercollegiate institutions that have competed in a combined 268 games amongst each other, ranging geographically from North Dakota to Utah to California, have announced the formation of the Great West Football Conference. The NCAA I-AA football-only alliance will begin competition in 2004, with full round-robin play scheduled to commence during the 2005 season.

Charter members of the Great West Football Conference include Southern Utah University, California Polytechnic State University, UC Davis, North Dakota State University, University of Northern Colorado, Saint Mary’s College of California and South Dakota State University.

“Today is an exciting day for our football program,” said SUU Director of Athletics Tom Douple, who is serving as the initial chair of the conference’s executive committee. “It is also a great day for Utah high school football, as it provides an opportunity for those many Utah high school players who continue their careers here to compete for a conference championship and for individual awards as well.

“Another positive factor in the formation of the conference is the impact this can have on each university’s entire community,” Douple went on to say. “It provides yet another avenue to further a sense of pride among students, faculty, administrators and alumni as well as the communities at large. In addition, this conference will foster rivalries among the fine institutions involved.”

Conference competition will begin in 2004, with South Dakota State visiting UC Davis and Northern Colorado playing host to North Dakota State on September 4. Each of the member institutions are scheduled to compete against at least five other charter members during the 2004 season, with Cal Poly, UC Davis, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado and Saint Mary’s scheduled to play all six other charter members. For South Dakota State and Southern Utah, one specific non-conference opponent will be designated as a ‘conference’ opponent in order to fulfill their respective six-game commitments. All ‘designated’ conference games will count for both conference standings and statistical purposes.

Great West members Cal Poly, Saint Mary’s and Southern Utah remain at-large candidates for NCAA I-AA post-season playoff consideration. UC Davis and Northern Colorado will become eligible for at-large consideration in 2007, while South Dakota State and North Dakota State become candidates in 2008. The conference has recently submitted its application for formal recognition to the NCAA. It is expected that the NCAA will consider the application in April.

The Great West Football Conference plans to recognize student-athletes on both a weekly and full-season basis. Individual awards will include Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week; All-Conference teams; an Academic All-Conference team; and Player, Newcomer and Coach of the Year awards. The league will also crown a team champion following the conclusion of conference competition.

The governance of the Great West Football Conference will remain primarily with the member institutions. Each member institution will be represented on the Presidents Council by its respective CEO. Dr. Steven Bennion (Southern Utah) will serve as the initial Chair with Dr. Warren Baker of Cal Poly as Vice Chair. The general operations and management of the Conference will be conducted by the Directors of Athletics (Directors Council). Three Athletic Directors will comprise the Executive Committee and be responsible for the overall administrative functions of the Conference. The initial Great West Executive Committee includes Douple as chair, Alison Cone (Cal Poly) as vice-chair and Greg Warczeka (UC Davis) as treasurer. Jim Fallis (Northern Colorado) will chair the External Relations Committee and Gene Taylor (North Dakota St.) will chair the Coaches Committee. Scheduling of contests, assignment of officials and certain media relations functions will remain with member institutions.

“Providing these student-athletes with the opportunity to compete for a conference championship makes all of this effort so worthwhile,” Douple noted. “I am certain that all the coaches will also use the opportunity to compete for a conference championship to motivate their players and to attract recruits. This is great for all of the athletes, coaches and institutions involved, as well as each university’s entire community.”

League members have earned impressive RPI ratings over the past few seasons, including a No. 14 by Northern Colorado and #19 by Cal Poly in 2003. In the national I-AA Top 25 poll, Cal Poly reached No. 14 while Northern Colorado achieved a #19 ranking.

The seven member schools are spread out of over five western states and three time zones, which will give each school added exposure - both in terms of media and recruiting - in new destinations. The conference affiliation is also expected to generate much interest within the seven schools’ substantial alumni base, which numbers more than 400,000 combined.