Great West Conference
The Great West Conference (GWC) was an NCAA college athletic conference in the continental United States. Originally a football-only league, it became an all-sports entity during the 2008–09 season. The GWC stopped sponsoring football following the 2011 season. The conference became defunct when four of the remaining five full member schools became members of other conferences on July 1, 2013.
|Great West Conference|
|Region||Midwest and West|
|Former names||Great West Football Conference|
Cal Poly, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Southern Utah, and UC Davis inaugurated the Great West Football Conference during the 2004 season. Cal Poly and UC Davis had previously been members of the American West Conference, a similar low-level conference that existed in the 1990s. St. Mary's (CA) was originally slated to join as well, but then dropped the sport six months before the league started play. In 2005, Cal Poly became the first GWFC team ever selected to participate in the NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs.
Northern Colorado departed the Great West for the Big Sky Conference in every sport as of the 2006 football season and 2006–07 academic year. On March 7, 2007, North Dakota State and South Dakota State announced that they would leave the GWFC after the 2007 football season, and join the Gateway Football Conference as of 2008. By the time the two schools actually made the switch, the Gateway had renamed itself the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The duo also placed their other sports, which were then independent, in the Summit League as of the 2008–09 academic year.
On August 2, 2007, North Dakota and South Dakota announced that they would join the Great West Football Conference as of the 2008 season. This agreement allowed the total number of GWFC programs to remain consistent at five, while also retaining the same geographic footprint.
On July 10, 2008, it was made official through a series of press conferences that the Great West would soon transition from a football-only league into an all-sports conference. The charter members included North Dakota, South Dakota, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Houston Baptist, Texas-Pan American, and Utah Valley. On October 22, 2008, Chicago State announced plans to join the newly rechristened GWC as well. Seattle was initially considering membership, but in mid-2011 accepted an invitation to instead join the WAC as of the 2012–13 academic year.
The expanded version of the Great West officially began playing a limited number of sports in the fall of 2008. Despite not sponsoring conference schedules in team sports (except football), the league began awarding "Player of the Week" honors to student-athletes in every sport during the 2008–09 season. The Great West featured championships in men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track and field, men's and women's outdoor track and field, men's and women's golf, and women's tennis during the 2008–09 academic year. In 2009–10, regular season schedules and championship tournaments were implemented in women's volleyball, women's soccer, men's and women's basketball, baseball, and softball.
Due to its newness, the league did not have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the Great West Conference men's basketball tournament champion received an automatic bid to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT), while the women's basketball tournament winners went to the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI).
In April 2010, South Dakota publicized intentions to join the Summit League for all sports but football, effective as of the 2011–12 academic year. Seven months later, in November 2010, the school would announce a commitment to the MVFC for football as of the 2012 season. In September 2010, Cal Poly and UC Davis announced that they would join the Big Sky Conference for football by 2012. Then, in November 2010, Southern Utah and North Dakota announced that they would join the Big Sky for all sports by 2012. South Dakota was considering the Big Sky as well, thus canceling the Summit League commitment, before the MVFC offered football-only membership.
With these moves, all football programs would soon leave the Great West, and the league stopped sponsoring the sport following the 2011 season. South Dakota stepped down to football-only status during the 2011–12 academic year, allowing the league to retain five teams in its final season on the gridiron. Overall the conference lost two full members—South Dakota and North Dakota—and six affiliates by the fall of 2012. The affiliate teams were Cal Poly, UC Davis, and Southern Utah in football; Nebraska-Omaha in softball; as well as multi-sport partners Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle.
In November 2011, Houston Baptist reached an agreement to join the Southland Conference as of the 2013–14 academic year. The school also unveiled plans to begin sponsoring football. In September 2012, Utah Valley announced plans to join the Western Athletic Conference for the 2013–14 season. At the beginning of December 2012, Texas–Pan American announced they had received an invitation to join the WAC for 2013–14 school year. On December 5, 2012, Chicago State announced that it would also join the WAC in 2013–14, and two weeks later, Texas–Pan American accepted their invitation. These departures led to the end of the Great West. NJIT, which became an independent after the demise of the Great West, joined the Atlantic Sun Conference on June 11, 2015.
|Chicago State University||Chicago, Illinois||Cougars||1867||Public||7,131||2008||2013||WAC|
|Houston Baptist University||Houston, Texas||Huskies||1960||Private||2,567||2008||2013||Southland|
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark, New Jersey||Highlanders||1881||Public||9,944||2008||2013||America East|
|University of North Dakota||Grand Forks, North Dakota||Fighting Sioux*||1883||Public||15,250||2008||2012||Summit (all others)|
|University of South Dakota||Vermillion, South Dakota||Coyotes||1862||Public||10,284||2008||2011 (all else)
|Summit (all others)|
|University of Texas–Pan American†||Edinburg, Texas||Broncs||1927||Public||19,302||2008||2013||WAC|
|Utah Valley University||Orem, Utah||Wolverines||1941||Public||31,556||2008||2013||WAC|
* The University of North Dakota's sports teams were known as the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux until 2012. As of 2016, they are known as the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
Former affiliate membersEdit
|Institution||Location||Nickname||Founded||Type||Enrollment||Joined||Left||Current Primary Conference||Great West Sport|
|University of Northern Colorado||Greeley, Colorado||Bears||1889||Public||12,497||2004||2006||Big Sky||football|
|North Dakota State University||Fargo, North Dakota||Bison||1890||Public||14,443||2004||2008||Summit (all others)
|South Dakota State University||Brookings, South Dakota||Jackrabbits||1881||Public||12,725||2004||2008||Summit (all others)
|Southern Utah University||Cedar City, Utah||Thunderbirds||1897||Public||8,297||2004||2012||Big Sky||football|
|California Polytechnic State University
|San Luis Obispo, California||Mustangs||1901||Public||18,679||2004||2012||Big West (all others)
Big Sky (football)
|University of California, Davis
|Davis, California||Aggies||1905||Public||31,862||2004||2012||Big West (all others)
Big Sky (football)
|Seattle University||Seattle, Washington||Redhawks||1891||Private||7,755||2010||2012||WAC||men's indoor track & field|
women's indoor track & field
men's outdoor track & field
women's outdoor track & field
|University of Nebraska Omaha||Omaha, Nebraska||Mavericks||1908||Public||14,903||2011||2012||Summit||softball|
|California State University, Bakersfield||Bakersfield, California||Roadrunners||1965||Public||8,111||2011||2012||WAC||women's tennis|
|Delaware State University||Dover, Delaware||Hornets||1891||Public||4,425||2009||2013||MEAC||women's soccer|
|Howard University||Washington, D.C.||Bison||1867||Private||10,000||2009||2013||MEAC||women's soccer|
|New York Institute of Technology||Old Westbury, New York||Bears||1955||Private||14,000||2009||2013||East Coast
(NCAA Division II)
|South Carolina State University||Orangeburg, South Carolina||Bulldogs||1896||Public||4,500||2009||2013||MEAC||women's soccer|
Football-only members Full members (including football) Full members (non-football) Associate members, other sports
|2005||Cal Poly and UC Davis||4–1|
|2006||North Dakota State||4–0|
|2007||South Dakota State||4–0|
|2011||North Dakota and Cal Poly||3–1|
In 2010, the Great West Conference sponsored men's and women's basketball championship tournaments for the first time. Both events were held in Orem, Utah, at the UCCU Center, home of Utah Valley University. The top-seeded men from the South Dakota reaffirmed their regular season success with a 91-86 title game victory over runner-up Houston Baptist. On the women's side, Utah Valley took advantage of the crowd's support, as the number six seeds upset their way to the crown by wrapping up the stunning run with a 70–62 triumph over regular season winners North Dakota.
The Great West tournaments returned to the UCCU Center for an encore in 2011, and third-seeded North Dakota claimed the men's championship after a 77–76 double overtime thriller against South Dakota, which was seeded fourth. Regular season winners Chicago State remained true to form in the women's bracket, outlasting third seeds North Dakota by a score of 74–66.
In 2012, the Great West tournaments shifted to the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University. North Dakota became the league's first back-to-back champs, as the second seeds enjoyed a 75–60 victory over fourth-seeded NJIT in the men's final. The weekend would end with a clean sweep for North Dakota, as the program's top-seeded women knocked off regular season runners-up Utah Valley 69–56 to claim their maiden league title.
The Great West Conference never had an automatic bid to the NCAA Men or Women's College Tournament, but the men's champions did receive automatic selection to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, while their female counterparts headed to the Women's Basketball Invitational.
|Season||Men's Regular Season Winners||Men's Tournament Champions||Season||Women's Regular Season Winners||Women's Tournament Champions|
|2009-10||South Dakota||South Dakota||2009-10||North Dakota||Utah Valley|
|2010-11||Utah Valley||North Dakota||2010-11||Chicago State||Chicago State|
|2011-12||Utah Valley||North Dakota||2011-12||North Dakota||North Dakota|
|2012-13||NJIT||Chicago State||2012-13||Utah Valley||NJIT|
The Great West Conference sponsored its inaugural baseball championship tournament in 2010, and held the event in different cities during each of its four years of existence. The league also experimented with formats, using pool play in 2010 but a traditional double elimination bracket from 2011 to 2013. Utah Valley claimed the first three regular season and tournament championships, while Northern Colorado and Houston Baptist won the final regular season and tournament championships, respectively. As in other sports, the Great West did not have an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship and no teams within the league earned an at-large invitation.
|Season||Regular Season Winners||Tournament Champions|
|2010||Utah Valley||Utah Valley|
|2011||Utah Valley||Utah Valley|
|2012||Utah Valley||Utah Valley|
|2013||Northern Colorado||Houston Baptist|
In addition to formerly sponsoring football; while continuing to sponsor men's basketball, women's basketball, and baseball; the Great West Conference sponsored many other sports. The GWC held its own men's golf championship in 2009, but the league's members decided to compete under the banner of the older and larger America Sky Men's Golf Conference starting in 2010, even though the option existed to hold a smaller Great West tournament and then participate in the America Sky event as well. Making men's tennis a league sport was also under discussion, but it never happened because only three schools—Chicago State, NJIT, and Texas Pan-American—had teams as of the 2012 season. The America Sky continued in operation during the 2014 season. That conference was absorbed by the Big Sky Conference in July 2014 once the latter added Idaho as its sixth golf-sponsoring school; the two remaining non-Big Sky members of the America Sky then became Big Sky golf affiliates.
|2009||North Dakota||2009||Utah Valley||2010||North Dakota||2010||Texas-Pan American|
|2010||North Dakota||2010||Houston Baptist||2011||Houston Baptist||2011||NJIT|
|2011||North Dakota||2011||Utah Valley||2012||Utah Valley||2012||NJIT|
|Season||Men's Cross Country
|Season||Men's Indoor Track & Field
|Season||Men's Outdoor Track & Field
|2008||Texas Pan-American||2008-09||South Dakota||2009||Utah Valley||2009||Houston Baptist|
|2009||Utah Valley||2009-10||South Dakota||2010||Utah Valley||2010||ASMGC: Texas-Pan American|
|2010||Utah Valley||2010-11||South Dakota||2011||Utah Valley||2011||ASMGC: Weber State|
|2011||Utah Valley||2011-12||Utah Valley||2012||Utah Valley||2012||ASMGC: Sacramento State|
|Season||Women's Cross Country
|Season||Women's Indoor Track & Field
|Season||Women's Outdoor Track & Field
|2008||Utah Valley||2008-09||South Dakota||2009||Utah Valley||2009||Texas-Pan American|
|2009||Utah Valley||2009-10||South Dakota||2010||Utah Valley||2010||Houston Baptist|
|2010||Utah Valley||2010-11||South Dakota||2011||Utah Valley||2011||Houston Baptist|
|2011||Utah Valley||2011-12||Utah Valley||2012||Utah Valley||2012||Houston Baptist|
Each full member of the Great West Conference has an on-campus basketball arena. Seating capacities range between 1,500 and 8,500. The full members are joined by three affiliates in baseball, forming an eight-team league. In women's soccer, the presence of three affiliates helped create a six-team league.
Softball previously had four members, with Nebraska-Omaha replacing South Dakota for the 2012 season, but North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha departed at the conclusion of that campaign. This leaves just Houston Baptist and Utah Valley, with no future alignment announced as of August 2012.
|School||Basketball arena||Capacity||Baseball stadium||Capacity||Softball stadium||Capacity||Soccer complex||Capacity|
|NJIT||Fleisher Center||1,500||B&E Riverfront Stadium||6,200||Non-softball school||Lubetkin Field||1,000+|
|NYIT||Baseball-only member||President's Field||1,000||Baseball-only member|
|Delaware State||Soccer-only member||Alumni Stadium||7,193|
|Howard||Soccer-only member||William H. Greene Stadium||10,000|
|South Carolina State||Soccer-only member||Oliver C. Dawson Stadium||22,000|
- "Utah Valley University Claims Fourth Consecutive Great West Conference Commissioner's Cup". Great West Conference. June 27, 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
- "Gateway Expands To Nine Members". Gateway Football Conference. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2007-03-09.[permanent dead link]
- Deseret News | UVU Joins New Sports Conference
- "GWC Men's Basketball Champion To Receive Bid To CIT". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2009-10-08.