UC San Diego to Move to Division I Sports

Photo courtesy of Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

UC San Diego will join the NCAA Division I Big West Conference and begin the transition to Division I sports, reports confirm.

Big West Conference Commissioner Dennis Farrell issued a statement earlier today announcing the addition of both UCSD and Cal State Bakersfield in all sports.

“The addition of these two outstanding universities will further strengthen the Big West’s position as the preeminent NCAA Division I public university conference for the states of California and Hawai‘i,” said Farrell. “The 2018-19 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the Big West Conference and this membership development positions the conference to continue growing and thriving for the next 50 years.”

Since its formation 49 years ago, the mid-major non-football athletic conference has expanded to include nine schools. CSU Bakersfield and UC San Diego will be joining Big West as the 10th and 11th additions to the conference, which is composed of the UC schools UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Barbara, as well as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CSU Fullerton, CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge, and the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.  

UCSD has been an NCAA Division II school since early 2000, competing in the California Collegiate Athletic Conference in most men’s and women’s sports. In May 2016, students overwhelmingly approved a referendum resulting in higher student fees to cover the costs of the school entering a non-football Division I program, but in April 2017, the Big West Conference’s Board of Directors declined to provide an invite to the conference.

“At the end of the day, our board of directors just felt that right now they’re comfortable with the makeup of the conference,” Farrell told the San Diego Union Tribune in April. “They’re comfortable with the balance of the membership. There wasn’t an overriding interest in changing it.”

Sportswriters speculated that the initial rejection was a result of the Big West’s four CSU schools not wanting to be outnumbered by UC schools in the conference. The addition of CSU Bakersfield along with UCSD maintains the balance between the two university systems. CSUB was previously the only California school in the Division I Western Athletic Conference.

UCSD Director of Athletics Earl Edwards is expected to confirm the news at a press conference today at 1PM, along with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former mayor Jerry Sanders.

Gabe Schneider is the News Editor at The Triton. Assistant News Editors Ella Chen and Rohan Grover contributed reporting to this article.