“I’ve had several people stop me today and tell me that this is a great day for Southern Utah University, but let me tell you, this is a great day for the Big Sky Conference, too,” Fullerton said during his address to an overflow crowd at SUU’s Sharwan Smith Center on Monday afternoon.
Fullerton said that the changing landscape in collegiate sports as well as SUU’s mission, location and level of competition all played a role, adding that Southern Utah will help establish the Big Sky as one of the most stable conferences in the country.
“About four years ago the presidents of the Big Sky Conference could see that in the shake-up of conferences across the country there was going to be tremendous opportunity,” Fullerton said. “If we were to work together and pay more attention to the type of institution that we bring into the conference and worry less about whether or not they were in huge demographic markets, and pay more attention to the mission and to the people of the universities … we could win this game. Today the Big Sky Conference is one of only three remaining football-playing conferences in the west: there’s the Pac-12, the Mountain West and the Big Sky Conference.
“As is evidenced by the turnout today, Southern Utah has a tremendous commitment level.”
SUU President Michael T. Benson addressed the crowd, noting: “When I came to work at Southern Utah University, I was given the charge to accomplish two things, the first was to get SUU into the Big Sky Conference and the second was to get a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on campus. We’ve now accomplished the first and we’re going to apply for our Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the next little while. This is a huge accomplishment for our University.
“This is a wonderful chance for us to associate with universities that we aspire to be more like,” Benson added. “This is an association that goes beyond athletics, it’s an association for us academically in a wonderful sense, and it will bring a lot of notoriety to campus and I know a lot of recognition.”
Cedar City Mayor Joe Burgess was also on hand to declare "Big Sky Day" in Cedar City and Ken Beazer, SUU Director of Athletics Ken Beazer said, "This is a long-awaited day at Southern Utah University. Ever since the University moved to Division I competition in 1987, membership in the Big Sky Conference has been a goal. Now we have to move forward and become a contributing member.”
Southern Utah University was invited into the Big Sky Conference in October of 2010 and will play its first contest as an official member on August 11 when the SUU women’s soccer team travels to Utah State to play a non-conference match against the Aggies.
The Thunderbirds’ first official Big Sky contest will be September 14, when the volleyball team travels to Weber State. Soccer plays its first BSC game on September 21 when it travels to Northern Arizona and the SUU football team kicks off its BSC era at Portland State on September 22.