January 9, 2010. Utah Valley defeats visiting Chicago State 48-43. With the victory, the first ever regular season conference game in Great West Conference history was complete.
March 9, 2013. Chicago State travels to take on Houston Baptist and NJIT heads out on the road to battle Texas-Pan American. And with these two games, the regular season history of the Great West Conference will come to an end.
The Great West Conference never had an automatic bid. It never even came close to obtaining one, either under the rules in place when it was formed requiring continuity of membership for a minimum number of years, or under the rules in place at its end, requiring at least 7 full Division I members. Next season, Utah Valley, Texas-Pan American and Chicago State head for the WAC while Houston Baptist moves on to the Southland. NJIT is still attempting to find its next conference home, with either the America East or the Northeast conference as their most likely destination; otherwise, they will be an independent next year.
What the Great West does have is the distinction of being the smallest of the small D1 conferences. Naturally, the Small Conference Game of the Day has chosen to end its regular season run this year with the final two regular season games in Great West history. While there is still a conference tournament to play next weekend, and a CIT appearance guaranteed for at least the conference tournament champion (last year the CIT took Utah Valley as an at-large as well), today marks the end of an era for the SCGD’s favorite small conference.
The Great West’s biggest claim to fame came at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season. The six games played in the Great West tournament had the following final scores: 73-70, 71-70, 72-70, 72-70, 65-63, and 77-76 OT. Every game came down to the final possession, making it, in terms of final score margin, the closest and most exciting conference tournament ever played. The total margin of difference in all six games combined was a mere 11 points.
As for today’s end to the Great West, our two SCGD’s both tip-off at 8:00 PM Eastern. Chicago State is 8-21 on the season and 2-5 in conference, as they travel to Houston Baptist who is 12-15 overall and 3-4 in league play. NJIT has already clinched the conference’s regular season title with a 6-1 conference mark and 16-11 overall record. They will be at Texas-Pan American which is 15-15 overall and 4-3 in conference. The final conference member, Utah Valley, finished 3-5 in conference play and currently sits at 14-16 overall (Utah Valley has a non-conference game as it hosts independent Cal State-Bakersfield in its regular season finale today as well).
Tonight is truly the end of an era. We say goodbye to our regular installments of the SCGD for the season, and we say goodbye to the Great West Conference. The Great West will not be missed by many, but for those of us that have a place in our hearts for the little guys, it is definitely sad to see the smallest of all conferences come to an end.