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CSU Bakersfield, UC San Diego officially join Big West Conference

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Posted at 9:37 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 00:37:32-04

The Big West Conference officially welcomed California State University, Bakersfield and the University of California San Diego as its newest members today, increasing the total number of Conference institutions to 11.

CSU Bakersfield will be immediately eligible in round-robin and single-site championship sports for Big West titles, awards and honors and continue its eligibility for NCAA automatic qualification in these sports.

UC San Diego will begin an NCAA mandated four-year reclassification period to Division I on July 1. Its programs will be included in all Big West round robin sports schedules beginning with the 2020-21 academic year. UC San Diego will conclude the reclassification period to Division I on July 1, 2024.

Dan Butterly marked the beginning of his tenure as Big West Conference Commissioner with a welcome message to the latest additions in the conference family.

“The admittance of CSU Bakersfield and UC San Diego brings tremendous excitement, enriches our geographic footprint and competitiveness, and adds new rivalries to the Big West Conference,” said Butterly. “We enthusiastically welcome the student-athletes, fans, coaches, faculty and administrators of both programs.”

Conference expansion will give the 11 school membership a physical presence in the following markets: Honolulu, HI (University of Hawai‘i, Manoa); Northern California (UC Davis); The Central Coast (Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara); The Central Valley (CSU Bakersfield); Los Angeles County (CSUN and Long Beach State); Orange County (Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine); The Inland Empire (UC Riverside); and San Diego County (UC San Diego).

CSU Bakersfield will participate in the following Big West championship sports: men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, women’s cross country, women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s track and field, women’s volleyball and beach volleyball. From 2016-20, the Roadrunner beach volleyball program participated as a Big West associate member.

CSUB President Dr. Lynnette Zelezny calls the move to the Big West a win for scholar-athletes, the university and the community.

“A tremendous benefit of the Big West Conference is that the schools are all in California, except Hawai‘i,” President Zelezny said. “That means less travel time for our scholar-athletes, and more time spent on academics and service to the community. Our community will love the friendly rivalries that will develop with other California universities and the energy that will bring to our games. This is exciting news for every sports fan in our region.”

Since moving to Division I and becoming postseason eligible at the start of the 2010-11 season, CSU Bakersfield’s athletic programs have won seven team conference championships, produced 26 individual conference champions, and made six NCAA Tournament appearances. Under Rod Barnes (2011-12 to present), the CSUB men’s basketball team has made four postseason appearances, including three in the last four completed seasons. The baseball program, which got its start in just 2009, has already produced 20 MLB draft picks. In men’s soccer, the ‘Runners boast two-time All-American Gyasi Zardes, a core member of the United States Men’s National Team since his debut in 2015.

The CSUB Athletics Department stands on four pillars: Academic Excellence, Student-Athlete Experience, Community Engagement, and Competitive Success. Prior to full-fledged membership in Division I, CSUB Athletics won 30 National Titles at the Division II level from 1971-2007.

“I’m most excited about the continued growth of our program. We’re looking to grow as quickly as possible, start winning those conference championships and then ultimately competing for national championships,” said CSU Bakersfield Director of Athletics Kenneth “Ziggy” Siegfried. “The Big West, for us, is the perfect fit. We talk a lot about our four pillars of success. Joining the Big West Conference checks the box on all of those.”

UC San Diego will field teams in the following Big West sports: men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s volleyball, and women’s water polo. The Triton men’s volleyball team competed for the Big West championship as an associate member the last three seasons. UC San Diego’s women’s water polo program also was Big West championship eligible during the abbreviated 2020 season.

"Now more than ever, we need to unite people. One proven way to do that is through sports," said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. "Competitors and spectators alike bond through sports unlike any other interest or activity. By expanding our athletics programs and joining the Big West Conference, we are nurturing this unifying power. We are providing new opportunities for our students to practice collaboration, learn the value of diverse ideas, talents and skillsets, and realize the true benefits of teamwork as we compete at the highest level against like-minded institutions."

UC San Diego’s athletics programs have experienced strong success throughout its history, including since joining Division II for the 2000-01 season. Since that jump to Division II, UC San Diego has placed in the top seven programs in the country on 13 different occasions and has finished second overall three times in the Learfield Directors’ Cup, an award emblematic of the nation’s best overall athletics department. In 2018-19, UC San Diego finished second out of 268 NCAA Division II schools overall.

Triton teams have captured 30 national championships while 44 squads have finished as national runners-up. UC San Diego scholar-athletes have won 138 individual national championships. In addition to producing 82 Academic All-America selections, UC San Diego has had 37 individuals earn prestigious NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships.

As part of its transition to Division I, UC San Diego has embarked upon a four-year strategic plan that aims to position the department to boldly pursue greatness as a transformational Division I program at one of the world’s most prestigious public institutions. The department’s mission is to ensure that its educational and athletic excellence develops inclusive leaders for life while enriching and engaging the University and San Diego as a whole.

“We’re extremely happy to be a part of the Big West Conference,” said UC San Diego Director of Athletics Earl Edwards. “I’m excited about getting the national, local and regional exposure and attention that we deserve. I’m excited about sharing with the public who we are and the things that we do, and recognizing that we’re a national leader when it comes to innovation and creativity, including in how we’re going to run our athletic department because we’re doing a lot of things that a lot of schools aren’t doing yet, and we look forward to sharing that with others as we move forward.”

-Provided by Big West