Last year (actually, exactly a year ago to the day, believe it or not), we told you about the formation of the Great West Conference. Essentially, the conference was formed to afford the athletes at a group of DI independents the chance to play games with meaning, receive weekly awards, and win conference titles like the rest of the conference affiliated schools across the country.
For basketball, those schools are:
- Chicago State
- Houston Baptist
- New Jersey Institute of Technology
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- Texas Pan-American
- Utah Valley State
It gets better.
Today, word came out that the conference has signed a deal with the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) to grant the conference champion an automatic bid. While this tourney is a far cry from even the NIT (last year's final was between Old Dominion and Bradley), this gives these kids even more to play for. Most teams in this league are currently NCAA eligible, meaning they could earn an at-large bid (highly unlikely), but an automatic bid for the conference champ to the Big Dance won't happen until at least 2020.
It is rare the NCAA ever does anything that benefits the kids. While there may be alterior motives to the decision to add a conference in DI hoops (another auto bid means another play-in games which equals more games, thus more money for the NCAA), this is still a move that will give the kids playing in the GWC for the next decade a meaning to their season.
(h/t to reader Jason Belzer for the heads up)