If someone had asked me to guess what member of the Big Sky Conference is moving on, I'm not sure I would have guessed this one.

It was announced today (Thursday) that, siting the traditional relationship between the state of Utah and the Western Athletic Conference, Southern Utah University will join the Western Athletic Conference, effective July 1, 2022. And they are not alone.

The Thunderbirds will be joining the league, along with Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin from the Southland Conference, bringing back FCS football to the Western Athletic Conference.

Quoting Southern Utah President Scott L Wyatt, "Southern Utah University is honored to join the WAC and help lead the resurgence of this great conference." We join a group of universities that is growing in enrollment and a conference that is poised for the future. Being a member of the WAC also creates new athletic rivalries that our alumni and fans are excited about. This is a win-win opportunity for SUU and we look forward to the future."

The additions will create a 13-team conference that will be divided into two divisions for team sports other than football, men's basketball and women's basketball. One division will consist of the Texas-based institutions including current WAC members Tarleton State University and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The other division will include Southern Utah along with Dixie State University, New Mexico State University, Grand Canyon University, California Baptist University, Seattle University and Utah Valley University.

So, will the Big Sky Conference sever ties right away? Well, no. The Thunderbirds will be joining the WAC ahead of the 2022-23 season, leaving the remainder of the current athletic season, as well as the 2021-22 season to be played in the Big Sky Conference, which is bound to not sit well with a lot of fans.

Here is the statement released today by the Big Sky Conference:

The Big Sky Conference thanks Southern Utah University for its contributions to our league over the past decade, and we wish the Thunderbirds well in the future while we continue to work together over the next 18 months. As we look ahead, the Big Sky is poised for unprecedented success with a committed and aspirational core of 10 full members, along with our affiliate members, as we continue our quest to be the preeminent FCS conference.

As far as football is concerned, the Montana Grizzlies are scheduled to play at Southern Utah on October 30 of the 2021 season.

 

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