CSUB reaches Div.I fundraising goal

January 18, 2007
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, kmiller26@csub.edu or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720, mnewell1@csub.edu

The first pitch by a California State University, Bakersfield baseball player will happen in about two years, thanks to the success of the university's NCAA Division I campaign.

That same day, a CSUB player will field the first ground ball, catch the first fly ball and get the first base hit.

Where this will occur isn't yet known CSUB does not yet have its own ballpark but thanks to the determination of committed community members and university officials, its occurrence is a certainty.

CSUB President Horace Mitchell said today that the Division I campaign has passed its $6 million target and is continuing to grow it's at $6.17 million and growing. "That's thanks to literally hundreds of people in this community who share the vision of a first-class university in a first-class community," he said. "Our move to Division I elevates both the community and the university."

The rally that pushed the campaign over the top came from Castle & Cooke chairman and chief executive officer David Murdock, who pledged $1 million to CSUB's NCAA Division I campaign, matching dollar for dollar all donations since Oct. 20.

When Murdock, also CEO of Dole Food Co., made this pledge, the university had raised $4.04 million. Since then, more than $1 million came in, not including the Castle & Cooke match. Murdock joined with former U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas of Bakersfield to co-chair the final push of the campaign. Radio executive Rogers Brandon, CPA Geoff King and Stinson Stationers President Ben Stinson spearheaded the campaign since its inception 15 months ago.

The $6 million includes $2.5 million to begin CSUB's baseball program, the 19th sport to be offered at CSUB. The university is currently advertising for a baseball coach, and will review applications on Feb. 1.

CSUB Athletics Director Rudy Carvajal said he anticipates hiring a coach by April, with the program being up and running for the 2008-09 academic year. That means CSUB will play its first game somewhere around Feb. 1, 2009. The college baseball season typically runs from February to May, with postseason play after that. A season is typically comprised of about 60 games.

Carvajal said the team will be comprised of 25 to 30 players, about average for a college team.

"We've just posted the position announcement," Carvajal said. "We expect to hire a coach in the spring, start recruiting next year and field a team the following year.

The reason for waiting for the '08-09 academic year is because "most teams have already drawn up their schedules for '07-08, so '09 is our best option," Carvajal said. "This gives us a chance for scheduling and recruiting. For 2008, it would be almost impossible to get a schedule together, plus the recruiting is completed. So by hiring a coach who doesn't have to coach his first year who can spend his first year recruiting gives us our best opportunity to be competitive the first year.

"We have to start off right, particularly academically. By waiting until 2009 (to begin play) students can come in and get their academic preparation started."

Carvajal said CSUB is "still pursuing conference affiliations and moving forward there as well." The success of the campaign "certainly puts us in a better position to negotiate membership. It makes us more attractive, obviously. There are a number of conferences that have nine members, and some are looking to add a 10th as well. We have to explore those possibilities."

The $6 million raised "is really the base foundation," he continued. "Obviously we'll need a lot more. We've met the minimum threshold to make all these programs full scholarship, upgrade our facilities and provide academic enhancements.

"Today's celebration isn't the beginning of the end, but rather it's the end of the beginning. This gets us on stable footing for the beginning of our move. Our goal was to be the best in Division II, and our goal is to be best in Division I, so we will need to continue with the increased level of support."