FORT SMITH — UAFS men’s basketball coach Josh Newman hasn’t been shy about playing NCAA Division I opponents.
Since UAFS became a member of NCAA Division II in the summer of 2009, the Lions have played exhibition or regular-season games against such Division I foes as St. Louis University, Nebraska, UMass, Troy, Georgia Southern, Valparaiso, Missouri State, Tulsa, Missouri and Texas Christian.
Now, you can add Utah State University, Southern Utah University and Colorado State University to that list.
UAFS will begin exhibition play on Nov. 7 at Utah State University in Logan and Nov. 8 at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Game times have yet to be determined. It will close the exhibition season at 2 p.m. on Dec. 13 with a mid-season exhibition game at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Utah State University competes in the Mountain West Conference with the likes of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Nevada, Boise State, Air Force, Colorado State, Hawaii, Fresno State, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State and Wyoming.
It will be the first ever meeting between the Lions and the Aggies, which finished 18-14 overall and 7-11 in conference this past season.
Southern Utah competes in the Big Sky Conference with the likes of Weber State, North Dakota, Northern Arizona, Montana, Portland State, Northern Colorado, Sacramento State, Eastern Washington, Montana State and Idaho State.
It will be the first ever meeting between the Lions and the Thunderbirds, who finished 2-27 overall and 1-19 in conference this past season.
"It all kind of started with the relationship we have with the staff at Utah State. I have known coach (Steve) Morrill and coach (Tim) Duryea for a very long time. Exhibition games are extremely hard to get, so you are calling everybody you know," Newman said.
"All of a sudden, we got the Utah State opportunity, so then we started to see what the closest school was to them logistically. We have a relationship with Southern Utah, so it just so happens we were able to put those games back to back so we could make one trip out west and play two quality exhibition games on the same trip."
Throughout his tenure as Lions coach, Newman has always tried to make his team’s long excursions an educational experience by taking in local landmarks, historical sites and such. However, considering the timeframe of this trip, Newman said it will be more of a business trip.
"It’s such a quick trip that it’s going to be more about our basketball team than maybe an educational trip," Newman said. "We are going to Denver later in the year, and that’s when we will try to sprinkle in some of the ‘experiences’ as we like to call them."
Colorado State also competes in the Mountain West Conference. It will be the first ever meeting between the Lions and the Rams, which finished 16-16 overall and 7-11 in conference this past season.
The Rams are coached by third-year head coach Larry Eustachy, whose previous head coaching stints include Idaho, Utah State, Iowa State and, most recently, Southern Mississippi.
"We are very appreciative to coach Eustachy and coach Barnes for the opportunity to play," Newman said. "I’ve known coach (Eustachy) for several years, and it will be a privilege to compete against his team."