AZUSA, Calif. –- Azusa Pacific University has accepted an invitation to join the NCAA Division II Pacific West Conference (PacWest) beginning with the 2012-13 school year, giving the Cougar Athletics program a conference home after submitting its NCAA Division II membership application last month.
Joining Azusa Pacific in accepting the PacWest’s membership invitation are Fresno Pacific University, Point Loma Nazarene University, and Holy Names University, which all submitted applications for NCAA Division II membership. The PacWest, which adds California Baptist University in the 2011-12 season, will be a 14-member NCAA conference as early as 2012-13 pending NCAA approval of the schools’ applications for Division II membership, which could occur as early as July 2011.
Azusa Pacific has won six consecutive Directors' Cup championships at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level, recognizing the Cougar intercollegiate athletics program as the best in the NAIA, and it expects to claim an unprecedented seventh later this month following a successful 2010-11 campaign that produced participants in national championship events in 16 of the Cougars' 17 NAIA championship sports. The Cougars have won 34 NAIA championships all-time, along with 104 Golden State Athletic Conference titles since becoming a charter member of the GSAC when the NAIA-affiliated conference formed in 1986. In addition, Azusa Pacific produced the most NAIA Scholar Teams of the top 10 schools in the 2009-10 Directors' Cup standings.
"We are tremendously excited that Azusa Pacific University has accepted our invitation to join the PacWest," PacWest commissioner Bob Hogue said. "APU's outstanding reputation in athletics and academics is unsurpassed, and their long winning tradition immediately bolsters the overall strength of our conference. We are proud that the Cougars will be making their home in the PacWest."
Director of Athletics Bill Odell led Azusa Pacific along the path towards NCAA membership, and he takes the Cougars into PacWest competition in 11 of the 13 sports that will be offered by the conference in 2012-13 (Azusa Pacific does not have intercollegiate men's or women's golf programs).
"I'm excited about being able to join a conference with new partners, a group made up of public and private schools that want to develop and grow their athletic programs," Odell said. "I'm also excited about the destinations the PacWest offers, to give Azusa Pacific's student-athletes the opportunity to experience some of the best locations the western U.S. has to offer and to be involved with diverse colleges and universities in the region.
"We are excited to be entering this new chapter along with three other GSAC schools that we're aligned with philosophically. Throughout this process, I have been impressed with the leadership of the current PacWest institutions, who have shown a desire to grow and raise their competitive level."
Azusa Pacific will continue to compete as an NAIA member in 2011-12 before shifting to a PacWest schedule beginning in 2012-13, where it will be immediately eligible for conference championships and awards.
About The PacWest
The Pacific West Conference is the largest geographically diverse conference competing at the NCAA Division II level. In 2011-12, the PacWest will consist of 10 schools located in Arizona, California, Hawai'i, and Utah. Beginning with the 2012-13 campaign, the PacWest will grow to 14 institutions in seven major metropolitan areas spread over four states and four times zones. The major metro areas include Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Fresno and Honolulu.
With 14 schools, the PacWest will be the largest conference in the NCAA Division II West Region.
The Pacific West Conference consists of four Hawaii-based programs in Chaminade University of Honolulu, Brigham Young University Hawaii (Laie), the University of Hawai'i at Hilo and Hawai'i Pacific University (Honolulu).
Dixie State College of Utah (St. George) and Grand Canyon University (Phoenix) are located in the Southwest, while Notre Dame de Namur (Belmont), Dominican University of California (San Rafael) and Academy of Art University (San Francisco) represent the Bay Area.
California Baptist University in Riverside begins PacWest play in 2011-12, giving the PacWest a presence in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, as well as a fourth school in the state of California.
In 2012-13, Azusa Pacific University will provide the PacWest with a second presence in the greater Los Angeles area, while Holy Names University in Oakland gives the PacWest a fourth program in the Bay Area.
Fresno Pacific University expands the PacWest into Fresno, while the addition of Point Loma Nazarene University gives the league an institution in San Diego. It is no wonder the PacWest prides itself on being "the most beautiful destination conference in the entire NCAA."
The PacWest history, dating back to 1992, includes a variety of institutions from throughout the Western United States. As leagues evolved, the PacWest was reduced to just the four Hawaii-based programs for the 2005-06 season – not enough to be considered an NCAA Division II conference.
With a one-year reprieve, the PacWest reformed and unveiled its current structure by adding Grand Canyon and NDNU for the 2006-07 campaign, and Dixie State for the 2007-08 season. In 2009-10, Dominican (CA) and Academy of Art began conference play bringing the league’s total number of teams to nine.
The PacWest currently has 11 official sports – and soon will grow by two more. Among the fall sports, the PacWest crowns champions in men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball, and men's and women's cross country, while the winter season is the domain of men's and women's basketball. In the spring, the league celebrates champions in women's tennis, men's golf, softball and baseball. Men's tennis and women's golf will be added to the spring roster as official conference sports beginning in 2012-13.
The PacWest is recognized for its outstanding athletic programs and student athletes. In 2010, Hawai'i Pacific University claimed the NCAA Division II Softball Championship, while this year Grand Canyon's Samantha Murphy was named the Daktronics, Inc., NCAA Division II Player of the Year and the Capital One/CoSIDA Scholar-Athlete of the Year in women's basketball.
Past NCAA II National Championships include BYU-Hawaii in women's tennis and women's volleyball, and Hawai'i Pacific in women's volleyball. This year, the BYU-Hawaii men's basketball team reached the NCAA Division II National Championship in men’s basketball that was televised live on CBS.