|August 29, 2005
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California State University, Bakersfield has declared its intention to move its athletics program to NCAA Division I, university President Horace Mitchell announced today.
CSUB is forwarding its application and filing fee to the National Collegiate Athletic Association headquarters in Indianapolis, and will begin the process of reclassification from it’s current Division II affiliation to Division I.
“When I became president of CSUB in July of last year, we developed a new vision for the campus,” Mitchell said at a news conference to announce the move. “That vision was about extending the excellence and diversity of our faculty and academic programs, enhancing the quality of our students’ experience, strengthening our community engagement, and having a commitment to excellence in all areas.
“Over the past 13 months our faculty and staff have worked diligently to move us forward. Our students and community members have been significant contributors as well. It is without question that our academic programs are our highest priority.
“At the same time, we are seizing ‘opportunities for excellence’ throughout the university. The opportunity is now for our athletics program.
“This is an important aspect of the continuing development of the university and the Greater Bakersfield community,” he continued. “This move will create a much more exciting atmosphere on campus. It will give us an increased level of competition, a larger attendance at games and more involvement in the community.”
The university is in the process of raising $6 million to help fund the added costs of Division I affiliation. To that end a team of university advancement officials and community leaders has been working to raise a portion of that money from community sources. CSUB students voted last spring to increase their campus fees to help fund the move.
“The students have spoken,” Mitchell said. “Now it’s up to the community. This move is an important piece of our vision – to be excellent in all areas. And NCAA Division I is the top tier of college athletics in America. To be part of this division not only elevates the university’s overall image and the excellence of our programs, but also it elevates the image of the community. I am confident that the community will step up and say yes, we want to be excellent, too.”
Ben Stinson, chair of the CSUB Foundation Board of Directors, was confident that the community would respond. “We will raise the money,” he said. “I’m confident that we will be able to make it happen. As a former athlete at CSUB (Stinson played on the Roadrunners’ basketball team during the 1976-77 season), I appreciated the opportunities that athletics provided me in pursuing my education. But I also must say that I am envious of the athletes who will be wearing the blue and gold in the future because they will be able to compete at the highest level. I think that this move is more than just athletics; it will affect everything we do at the university well into the future.”
The declaration means CSUB could start playing Division I opponents as early as 2006-07, and could take on a full Division I schedule in 2007-08.
Its teams and athletes would be eligible to win NCAA championships in all sports after 2009-10, the last year of the reclassification process. The move will not affect the Roadrunner wrestling and water polo teams, which already compete at the Division I level.
How will moving to Division I affect CSUB? One major difference for student athletes is eligibility requirements. Currently CSUB recruits some athletes who do not meet NCAA specific Division I eligibility requirements. For example, Division I athletes must complete four years of athletic eligibility in five consecutive years. At the Division II level, student-athletes have 15 academic quarters to complete 12 quarters of eligibility, regardless of how many calendar years they use.
Another change would be for athletes wanting to transfer from a junior college to CSUB. Prospective Roadrunners would have to sit out a year unless they had earned their associate’s degree.
One of the most significant differences would be CSUB’s ability to provide full scholarships for their athletes. Division II schools are limited. It is also anticipated that the university would have to expand its sports program. Several sports are under consideration, most prominently, baseball and women’s golf.
A spot is reserved on the campus master plan for a baseball stadium in the southwest corner of the campus. “The fundraising part is the key ingredient,” said CSUB Athletic Director Rudy Carvajal. “If we can raise the right amount of money, we can put baseball in place right away.” He added there are other prospects under consideration, such as a partnership with the City of Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Blaze or both to build a facility on campus that would be shared.
The shift to Division I isn’t an overnight process. During the exploratory year there are no major changes and the university is still able to compete in the Division II playoffs. CSUB must submit a strategic plan that addresses various Division I operating principles.
The university will enter its first transition year in 2006-07. At that time CSUB must comply with all minimum Division I contest and participation requirements, though it will not be required to play a full Division I schedule. Key administrators must attend the NCAA Convention and orientation meeting. The university would be ineligible for post-season playoffs for a four-year period.
During the 2007-08 school year CSUB must be in full compliance with all Division I legislation and membership requirements. Teams will be on a full Division I schedule but still remain ineligible to compete for a championship.
In 2009-10 the university must complete an NCAA certification evaluation visit and self study process evaluation. The Roadrunners would still be ineligible for a Division I championship.
The 2010-11 academic term would be CSUB’s first official year as a full-fledged Division I member.