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Four Schools to Join Big West Conference : Colleges: Boise State, Idaho, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and North Texas would be members by 1996-97 school year.

October 14, 1994|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After enjoying nearly a decade of stability, the Big West Conference will undergo its fifth major change in four years with Thursday's announcement that Boise State, Idaho, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and North Texas will be added to the league for the 1996-97 school year.

Boise State, Idaho and San Luis Obispo officially accepted the invitation Thursday. North Texas will announce its intentions Monday, but the school issued a statement saying it was "extremely excited" about the invitation.

Though Nevada Las Vegas and San Jose State will leave the Big West to join the Western Athletic Conference in 1996, the expansion will boost the Big West to 12 members for men's basketball, which will necessitate a split into two, six-team divisions.

The Western Division will consist of Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara, University of the Pacific and San Luis Obispo. The Eastern Division will consist of Idaho, Boise State, Nevada, Utah State, New Mexico State and North Texas.

Because San Luis Obispo plays football in Division I-AA's restricted scholarship American West Conference, it will not join the Big West in that sport, but Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said he is looking at Central Florida or Northwestern Louisiana as a prospective football-only member, in hopes of creating a two-division conference with 12 schools.

Southwestern Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois and Arkansas State are football-only members of the Big West, and will be joined in the conference by Nevada, New Mexico State, Pacific, Utah State, North Texas, Boise State and Idaho.

That means there will be only one California school, Pacific, left playing football in the Big West, which as late as 1977 was made up exclusively of California schools. Fresno State jumped to the WAC in 1992, and San Jose will follow suit in 1996. Long Beach (1991) and Fullerton (1992) have dropped football.

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