The Utah High School Activities Association has scheduled boys’ volleyball to begin in spring 2024, adding another spring sport to the lineup.
The Big Sky athletic conference doesn’t currently sponsor men’s volleyball for competition, so as of now, it will join an increasing list of high school sports not offered at any schools in the conference.
Boys’ volleyball is already played at public high schools in Colorado, California and Arizona. With Utah’s inclusion, half of the states with universities in the Big Sky will have high school volleyball. This begs the question, will men’s volleyball be sponsored anytime in the near future?
Brigham Young University is the only school in Utah currently sponsoring men’s volleyball. The Pac-12 doesn’t formally sponsor the sport, and with them covering many of the states that the Big Sky does, it’s likely their actions will impact the conference.
As of 2022, only 57 NCAA schools have Division I men’s volleyball teams, along with two other universities. As states look to sanction the sport at the high school level, this number is likely to grow, but it shouldn’t be expected to be in the Big Sky any time soon.
If volleyball isn’t a prime target for sponsorship, are there any other sports that may be more likely to enter Big Sky play?
Sports with professional leagues have a natural advantage in this category, with viewership at the professional level granting additional attention towards collegiate play. The MLS, NHL and MLB help the odds of men’s soccer, hockey, and baseball accordingly.
Hockey is played at the NCAA Division I level, but its popularity is mostly concentrated in the northeast part of the country. While Weber State has club hockey, it is unlikely to be adopted at the conference level with how many participating universities have minimal interest.
Men’s soccer is less limited regionally, but also might not be popular or prolific enough to incentivize sponsorship. The Pac-12 sponsors men’s soccer, but many schools within the conference, like the University of Utah, choose not to sponsor a team.
The possible advantage that men’s soccer has is that it would be easy to share facilities with women’s soccer, which is already sponsored in the conference. Although it’s not likely that the Big Sky will sponsor men’s soccer soon, there’s a chance.
Baseball is a very popular sport at the NCAA level across the country. In fact, the Big Sky actually sponsored baseball for 10 seasons from 1963-73 and is the only Division I “all-sports” conference without baseball in 2022. The process of adopting a new sport as large as baseball won’t happen quickly. However, baseball has the best shot at being the next sponsored sport.