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.[1]

Great West Conference
DivisionDivision I
Members5 (final)
Sports fielded
  • 15
    • men's: 5
    • women's: 9
RegionMidwest and West
Former namesGreat West Football Conference
HeadquartersNaperville, Illinois
CommissionerEd Grom


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.[2] 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.[3] 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 Postseason Tournament (CIT),[4] 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.[5] 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.

Member schools

Former members

Institution Location Nickname Founded Type Enrollment Joined Left Current Conference
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 Atlantic Sun
University of North Dakota Grand Forks, North Dakota Fighting Sioux* 1883 Public 15,250 2008 2012 Summit (all-sports)
Big Sky (football, will join MVFC in 2020)
University of South Dakota Vermillion, South Dakota Coyotes 1862 Public 10,284 2008 2011 (all else)
2012 (football)
Summit (all others)
MVFC (football)
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.

Texas–Pan American merged with the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2015, becoming the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros.

Former affiliate members

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)
MVFC (football)
South Dakota State University Brookings, South Dakota Jackrabbits 1881 Public 12,725 2004 2008 Summit (all others)
MVFC (football)
Southern Utah University Cedar City, Utah Thunderbirds 1897 Public 8,297 2004 2012 Big Sky football
California Polytechnic State University
(Cal Poly)
San Luis Obispo, California Mustangs 1901 Public 18,679 2004 2012 Big West (all others)
Big Sky (football)
University of California, Davis
(UC 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

Membership timeline

Football-only members Full members (including football) Full members (non-football) Associate members, other sports

Football champions

Season Champions Record
2004 Cal Poly 4–1
2005 Cal Poly and UC Davis 4–1
2006 North Dakota State 4–0
2007 South Dakota State 4–0
2008 Cal Poly 3–0
2009 UC Davis 3–1
2010 Southern Utah 4–0
2011 North Dakota and Cal Poly 3–1

Basketball champions

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 Postseason Tournament, while their female counterparts headed to the Women's Basketball Invitational.

SeasonMen's Regular Season WinnersMen's Tournament ChampionsSeasonWomen's Regular Season WinnersWomen's Tournament Champions
2009-10South DakotaSouth Dakota2009-10North DakotaUtah Valley
2010-11Utah ValleyNorth Dakota2010-11Chicago StateChicago State
2011-12Utah ValleyNorth Dakota2011-12North DakotaNorth Dakota
2012-13NJITChicago State2012-13Utah ValleyNJIT

See also

Baseball champions

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 2011–2013. 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.

SeasonRegular Season WinnersTournament Champions
2010Utah ValleyUtah Valley
2011Utah ValleyUtah Valley
2012Utah ValleyUtah Valley
2013Northern ColoradoHouston Baptist

See also

Other champions

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.

SeasonWomen's Volleyball
Tournament Champions
SeasonWomen's Soccer
Tournament Champions
Tournament Champions
SeasonWomen's Tennis
Tournament Champions
2009North Dakota2009Utah Valley2010North Dakota2010Texas-Pan American
2010North Dakota2010Houston Baptist2011Houston Baptist2011NJIT
2011North Dakota2011Utah Valley2012Utah Valley2012NJIT
SeasonMen's Cross Country
SeasonMen's Indoor Track & Field
SeasonMen's Outdoor Track & Field
SeasonMen's Golf
2008Texas Pan-American2008-09South Dakota2009Utah Valley2009Houston Baptist
2009Utah Valley2009-10South Dakota2010Utah Valley2010ASMGC: Texas-Pan American
2010Utah Valley2010-11South Dakota2011Utah Valley2011ASMGC: Weber State
2011Utah Valley2011-12Utah Valley2012Utah Valley2012ASMGC: Sacramento State
SeasonWomen's Cross Country
SeasonWomen's Indoor Track & Field
SeasonWomen's Outdoor Track & Field
SeasonWomen's Golf
2008Utah Valley2008-09South Dakota2009Utah Valley2009Texas-Pan American
2009Utah Valley2009-10South Dakota2010Utah Valley2010Houston Baptist
2010Utah Valley2010-11South Dakota2011Utah Valley2011Houston Baptist
2011Utah Valley2011-12Utah Valley2012Utah Valley2012Houston 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


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