DENVER – The Western Athletic Conference today enthusiastically welcomes six institutions to the league. As of July 1, 2013, California State University, Bakersfield, Chicago State University, Grand Canyon University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, The University of Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley University are officially members of the WAC.
“Today is an important and exhilarating day for the WAC,“ Commissioner Jeff Hurd said. “We proudly welcome our six new members and look forward to the contributions each of them will bring to the conference.”
The WAC now consists of nine full members, as the six new schools join the University of Idaho, New Mexico State University and Seattle University as members for the 2013-14 academic year. Information about each of the new members is listed below.
California State University, Bakersfield
California State University, Bakersfield, was founded in 1965 and has an enrollment of 8,200. Prior to their reclassification to NCAA Division I, the Roadrunners were a model Division II athletics program, winning 30 National Championships and the prestigious Sears Director’s Cup. Bakersfield is the only CSU institution to achieve such status.
The tradition of athletics success has carried into Division I as evidenced by the recent participation in postseason play by many athletics programs including men’s soccer (NCAA 2011), men’s basketball (CIT 2012) and women’s basketball (WBI 2010-2011). Additionally, CSUB baseball, which began WAC play last academic year, won 37 games and had five players taken in the MLB Draft, the largest draft class ever in the history of Roadrunners baseball.
Academically, nearly half of CSU Bakersfield student-athletes maintain a 3.0 GPA. The institution continues to expand its academic offerings, recently beginning engineering and agriculture-business majors as well as a joint doctorate program.
Situated in California’s heavily populated San Joaquin Valley, CSU Bakersfield has the distinction of being the only NCAA Division I program within a 110-mile radius of its campus. Accordingly, a top-75 media market with coverage from all four broadcast networks, more than 20 radio stations and the presence of both English and Spanish newspapers serves the nearly 1,000,000 residents of Kern County, California.
Chicago State University
Chicago State University was founded in 1867 with just 62 students enrolled in its first year. Today it is a nationally-accredited university with five colleges - Health Sciences, Arts and Science, Business, Education, and Pharmacy - offering 36 undergraduate and 25 graduate degree-granting programs. In addition, CSU has a Division of Continuing Education and Non-Traditional Programs that reach out to the community with extension courses, distance learning and not-for-credit programs.
Admittance into the WAC gives Chicago State a home in an athletic conference with an automatic bid to NCAA Championships for the first time since 2005-06. The Cougars sponsor 14 intercollegiate sports, and will add men’s and women’s soccer for the 2014 season. The men’s basketball team won the Great West Conference Tournament Championship in March of 2013, earning its first-ever championship as an NCAA Division I program and the program’s first postseason tournament appearance.
Grand Canyon University
Located in Phoenix, Ariz., Grand Canyon was founded in 1949 and has an enrollment of about 6,500. GCU was a member of the NCAA Division II Pacific West Conference and now begins the four-year reclassification to Division I.
The Antelopes are coming off of an impressive 2012-13 campaign that saw them repeat as winners of the Division II Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, which recognizes the top university based on athletic performance. GCU accumulated six individual national titles, captured eight conference titles and won the PacWest Commissioner’s Cup title after recording double-digit points in all 15 sports. The baseball team made its first-ever appearance at the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship, tying for fifth overall, and collected its most wins (40) since 1990.
GCU boasts some of the finest athletic facilities in the nation, including the newly built 5,000-seat Grand Canyon University Arena, home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and a state-of-the-art Recreation Center, a 55,000 sq. foot building that features three basketball courts and practice facilities for both wrestling and volleyball.
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Over the past five seasons, UMKC has seen competitive improvement every year as it has won conference championships in men’s soccer, men’s golf, men’s tennis and softball, while the women’s basketball team posted its first 20-win season since 1991-92 and its first ever berth in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament in 2011-12. The ‘Roos have won 13 conference titles in the last six years. UMKC has one of the top soccer facilities in the Midwest with the building of Durwood Soccer Stadium and Recreational Field in 2009. The $9 million addition hosts offices and locker rooms for men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s track and field, and softball.
UMKC student-athletes have a cumulative GPA of 3.26, and maintain a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) above the NCAA Division I average at 84 percent.
The University of Texas-Pan American
Located in Edinburg, Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, The University of Texas-Pan American was founded in 1927 and has an enrollment of 19,843. UTPA, formerly known as Edinburg College, Pan American College and Pan American University, is a part of the University of Texas System of Schools.
The Broncs have won six team national championships, including the 1963 NAIA Championship in men’s basketball and every NAIA Championship in men’s tennis from 1961 through 1965. The baseball team has seen the most success at the NCAA Division I level, reaching the NCAA Tournament 13 times, including an appearance in the 1971 College World Series.
Utah Valley University
Utah Valley University was founded in 1941 and is home to more than 33,000 students. The Wolverines sponsor 15 intercollegiate sports, 14 of which will compete in the WAC: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and women’s volleyball. Men’s soccer will begin play in 2014.
In 2009, UVU ended seven years of provisional status and was officially recognized as a full NCAA Division I member, becoming the first institution to leap into the D-I ranks directly from junior college status. In each of its four seasons in the Great West, the Wolverines won the GWC Commissioner’s Cup. Over the past four years, Utah Valley has had six student-athletes receive All-America recognition, including three baseball players from the 2012 team that led the nation with a .797 winning percentage. Also in 2012, men’s basketball became the school’s first team to compete in a postseason game in theCollegeInsider.com Tournament.