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Dennis Farrell


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Information Director

Mike Villamor


Kaia Hedlund


Pat Sampson

Big West Conference
2 Corporate Park
Irvine, CA 92606
Phone: (949) 261-2525
Fax: (949) 261-2528

The Big West Conference enters its thirty-second season as a conference and final year of football, saying goodbye to a sport that has been sponsored by the conference since its inception. Arkansas State, Boise State, New Mexico State, Idaho, North Texas, and Utah State will line up for the 2000 season on the gridiron.

The conference enters its fourth year in partnership with the Humanitarian Bowl and second year with Crucial Technologies, the title sponsor of the bowl game. Played in Boise State’s Bronco Stadium, the 2000 game will feature the Big West champion versus a representative from the Western Athletic Conference.

The game is coming off its most successful season ever, breaking an attendance mark and setting an ESPN2 ratings mark. Over 29,000 fans saw Boise State defeat Louisville, 34-31, in last year’s game.

If birth certificates were given to conferences, the one issued to the then Pacific Coast Athletic Association would be dated July 1, 1969. However, the unofficial history of the conference pre-dates that point of time, extending back to 1967.

Cal State Los Angeles, Fresno State, Long Beach State and San Diego State were members of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, long recognized as the nation's premier college circuit.

That conference was classified college division, and therein lay a major source of dissatisfaction. Since 1963, the four institutions had captured 16 national titles. The number swelled to 21 if the mythical football championships were included.

With no more territory to conquer at the college division, a step up to university ranks had to be considered.

At the time, San Jose State, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific were members of the West Coast Athletic Conference but were enduring a strained relationship due to the limit of conference sports sponsored. That, plus the fact that national football figures UOP and SJSU were already competing as independents, led the schools to pursue a more broad-based conference alignment.

Therefore, officials of the seven colleges and universities assembled as a body in May of 1969, tied up loose ends and less than two months later the PCAA was born.

Direction in the early days of the conference came from such men as Dr. Stephen Goodspeed, vice-chancellor at UC Santa Barbara, the first president and chairman of the founders committee. J. Kenneth Fagans provided guidance as the league’s first commissioner. Jesse T. Hill, one of the nation’s most successful directors of athletics at USC, followed Fagans as the conference’s first full-time commissioner.

SJSU was already labeled a university division school in all sports when the PCAA emerged. San Diego State and UOP were granted university division status in the summer of 1970 and the remaining conference members shed the college division by 1972.

The conference’s 31 years have been characterized by expansion and change.

The original PCAA lineup changed in the early years and by 1975, charter members UCSB and CSLA had dropped football and SDSU bolted the conference in football only. In 1974, Cal State Fullerton moved into the conference. By 1977, UC Irvine joined the Big West and UCSB was back in -- both as non-football playing institutions -- while Utah State became the first non-California member of the circuit, transforming the PCAA into a regional conference.

Nevada-Las Vegas (1981) and New Mexico State (1984) soon followed suit, bringing the league’s membership to 10 universities.

In the fall of 1983, the PCAA became the first western conference to incorporate women’s athletic programs into the conference. Charter women’s members UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UNLV competed in five championships.

By the end of 1985, Pacific, Hawaii, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, San Diego State, Fresno State and San Jose State had joined the women’s conference. The PCAA upped its women’s sponsorship to eight championships.

The PCAA began its 20th year of existence by changing its name to the Big West Conference. With the inclusion of the states of Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico into the loop, the term “Big West” more accurately represented the conference.

In the 31-year history of the conference, numerous Big West football players have received national recognition. In addition, several Big West gridiron greats have been among the nation’s leaders in several statistical categories.

Just this past season, Nevada’s Trevor Insley established new NCAA marks with 5,005 receiving yards and 298 receptions in a career. In addition, he set a new standard for single season receiving yards per game, averaging 187.3 ypg, compiled six 200-yard games in one season, and had 2,060 receiving yards in 1999. Insley also was the nation’s leading receiver with 134 catches, the third-most in college football history.

Insley followed a long list of receivers who have had success in the Big West. Former Wolf Pack teammate Geoff Noisy broke the NCAA Division I record for career receptions with 295 in 1998. Another former Nevada player, Andy Van Dyke, established an NCAA record in 1995 with 1,854 receiving yards in one year. UNLV’s Randy Gatewood established new NCAA marks in receptions and receiving yards in 1994. Gatewood caught 23 passes for 363 yards against Idaho to break two long-standing NCAA marks. In all, five Big West wide receivers have held the NCAA record in either career receptions or yards.

Quarterbacks have made their marks in the Big West. Mike Maxwell of Nevada led the nation in total offense in 1994 and 1995, averaging 318.0 yards and 402.6 yards per game, respectively. It marked the third consecutive season a quarterback from Nevada led the nation in total offense. Chris Vargas did it in 1993, averaging 393.8 yards per game. The two Nevada QBs join a long list of Big West players who are among the NCAA’s career leaders in total offense, including SJSU’s Mike Perez, LBSU’s Doug Gaynor, USU’s Brent Snyder, UNLV’s Randall Cunningham and LBSU’s Todd Dillon.

In 1986, Kevin Sweeney of Fresno State became the all-time NCAA passing (career yards) leader. That same season, Long Beach State receiver Mark Templeton set the NCAA record for career receptions. Both records have since been broken.

Three times the league has had the nation’s leading rusher. In 1978, Cal State Fullerton’s Obie Graves led all Division I-A ball carriers with 1,789 yards. In 1987, Ickey Woods of UNLV shuffled his way to an NCAA high 1,658 yards. LeShon Johnson of Northern Illinois recorded the fourth-highest single-season rushing total ever in 1993, gaining 1,976 yards. Johnson, who also led the nation in all-purpose yardage, was a unanimous first-team All-America selection.

In 1991, Pacific quarterback Troy Kopp led the nation with 37 touchdown passes. Fellow Tiger Ryan Benjamin led the nation in all-purpose yardage in both 1991 (249.6 avg.) and 1992 (236.1) and set the NCAA career standard at 237.8 avg. Pacific’s Aaron Turner ended his career (1989-92) as the most prolific receiver in NCAA history, establishing career records for receptions (266), yards (4,345) and touchdowns (43).

The Big West has produced its share of NFL standouts. Four times the league has given the NFL its Rookie of the Year -- SDSU's Dennis Shaw (1970), LBSU’s Terry Metcalf (1973) UNLV's Ickey Woods (1988) and SJSU’s Johnny Johnson (1990). In 1980, former San Diego State star Brian Sipe was named the NFL’s Player of the Year. In 1988, Randall Cunningham (UNLV) was honored with the Maxwell Club’s Bert Bell Award for NFL MVP.

All-Pros to come out of the Big West include SJSU's defensive stars Carl Ekern, Kim Bokamper, Cody Jones and Louis Wright; and SDSU’s Isaac Curtis, Willie Buchanon and Monte Jackson. Others include Dave Chapple (UCSB), Henry Ellard (FSU), Mike Horan (LBSU), Rulon Jones (USU), and Mike Merriweather (UOP).

Big West football teams are 14-9-1 in bowl games, including a 10-6 mark vs. the MAC in California Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl contests. The conference has also won the last two Humanitarian Bowls.

The Big West Conference has made numerous strides in intercollegiate athletics and has captured many national championships. Most recently, the Big West’s Long Beach State won the Women’s Volleyball Championship in 1998. Other championships include five other women’s volleyball titles, a baseball title in 1995 by Cal State Fullerton, a softball title by the Titans in 1986 and a men’s basketball crown in 1990 by UNLV.

In baseball, Cal State Fullerton claimed its third national title in 1995 by going undefeated in the Regionals and College World Series. The Titans, who also won NCAA crowns in 1979 and 1984, became the first No. 1 seed in CWS history to capture the title. In addition, college baseball's Player of the Year has come from the Big West three times (Tim Wallach, Phil Nevin and Mark Kotsay, all of Cal State Fullerton).

In women’s volleyball, Long Beach State claimed the 1998 title after becoming the first team in NCAA history to go undefeated for an entire season.

The conference is also regarded as a powerhouse in softball and is well represented nationally in its full lineup of 18 sports (10 women’s and eight men’s).

The Big West Conference office, which is located in Irvine, California, is headed Dennis Farrell, who is heading into his ninth year as Commissioner. Farrell is a 20-year veteran of the Big West office, having served in various capacities as an assistant/associate commissioner since joining the conference in 1980. He is the fourth full-time commissioner in the history of the conference (Jesse T. Hill, Lew Cryer, James Haney and Dennis Farrell).

Arkansas State* 1993-95, 99-00
Boise State 1996-
Cal Poly 1996-
Cal State Fullerton 1975-
Cal State Los Angeles 1969-74
Fresno State 1969-92
Long Beach State 1969-
Louisiana Tech* 1993-95
New Mexico State* 1984-
Northern Illinois* 1993-95
San Diego State 1969-78
San Jose State 1969-96
Southwestern Louisiana* 1993-95
UC Irvine 1978-
UC Santa Barbara 1969-74, 77-
Idaho 1996-
UNLV 1982-96
Nevada 1992-99
North Texas* 1996-
Pacific 1972-
Utah State 1978-

Bold = current conference member
* = football only

(by length)
Pacific 27 years
Fresno State 23 years
Long Beach State 23 years
Utah State 22 years
Cal State Fullerton 18 years
New Mexico State 16 years
UNLV 14 years
Nevada 8 years
San Diego State 7 years
Arkansas State 4 years
Boise State 4 years
Idaho 4 years
North Texas 4 years
Cal State Los Angeles 3 years
Louisiana Tech 3 years
Northern Illinois 3 years
Southwestern Louisiana 3 years
UC Santa Barbara 3 years