Three teams depart GSAC for NCAA Division II
Golden State Athletic Conference play will look drastically different for Biola sports teams starting in August.
Azusa Pacific University, Fresno Pacific University and Point Loma Nazarene University, who all applied to be instated into NCAA Division II in 2011, will be leaving the GSAC and the NAIA to join the Pacific West Conference.
The departing schools have been some of the more prominent and successful sports programs not only in the conference, but in the entire NAIA. Azusa Pacific men’s basketball has won eight of the last 15 conference titles, while both Azusa Pacific and Point Loma women’s basketball have combined to win three of the last five conference titles with Azusa Pacific being crowned NAIA champion in 2011 and Point Loma in 2008.
Azusa Pacific and Point Loma’s baseball programs have also been successful as of late. Both teams have combined to win six of the last 11 conference titles, with Azusa Pacific winning four since 2002.
“They are great programs that have given the GSAC great tradition as a conference,” sophomore infielder Dave McNeill said. “It’s tough to replace teams of that caliber so it will be interesting to see what the new teams bring to the conference.”
Competition remains despite loss of key schools
The changes will decrease the number of current GSAC schools to seven, but the conference will add Arizona Christian University in the fall, bringing the conference total to an even eight teams.
Fresno Pacific women’s volleyball has been easily the standout sport representing the GSAC, being a dominant force in both the conference and NAIA over the past 15 years. They won 11 straight conference championships between 2000 and 2010, including five NAIA championships over that span. The most recent came in 2010, which completed a streak of four straight NAIA titles.
Lack of action from school raises questions among athletes
“I’m upset because those were great competitive teams,” junior setter Justine Schoneveld said. “I’m afraid competition will decrease.”
The lack of desired competition has had an immediate effect on athletes’ commitment to Biola’s athletic program, with some deciding to leave for other schools.
Baseball’s Chris Baek, a junior starting pitcher, has one more year left of athletic eligibility, but is choosing instead to graduate this spring and not play baseball next year.
“Biola doesn’t support the athletics department,” Baek said. “[Biola] doesn’t give athletes incentive to come here when the competition is bad.
“I need to get on with my life, but those things definitely didn’t help,” he said. “I’ve never been on a college team where the only equipment we get are shorts and a shirt.”
The majority of expenses that go toward athletic department spending come from both undergraduate and graduate tuition, and with Biola’s student body being the second largest in the GSAC, Biola has a plethora of funds to access.
Administration stands firm in beliefs
But Greg Vaughan, Vice President of Enrollment Management and member of the President’s Administrative Council, assures student athletes that both he and the entire administration have the athletics department’s best interest in mind.
“We definitely are sad that the GSAC has lost those schools,” Vaughan said, “but our perspective is that, at this time, we would not be better off going NCAA and it could be detrimental to the entire university from a financial standpoint.”
The university has supported the athletics department through long-term investments.
“Our facilities have improved dramatically in the last decade,” he said, referring to the new soccer, swimming and track and field facilities. “We’re going to be redoing the softball field over the next two or three years so I think our facilities are a great example to our commitment to athletics.”
But Vaughan still keeps in mind the university as a whole.
“If you gave me a million dollars today to spend at Biola to make this a better place and a more prestigious school, and as much as I love athletics and I love winning,” Vaughan said, “ I don’t know if [athletics] is the first place I would put it.”