From Redhawks to Roadrunners, WAC Has Range of Competitors
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
The Dixie State Red Storm. The Academy of Art Urban Knights. The Notre Dame de Namur Argonauts.
GCU fans have grown used to watching a few teams not commonly found on ESPN. But that’s the life of an NCAA Division II school. You must pay your dues. But now that those dues are paid, and the Antelopes are set to join the Division I Western Athletic Conference next fall, which schools will serve as competition for the ‘Lopes?
Cal State Bakersfield
Bakersfield accepted its WAC invitation in October after making the jump from Division II to Division I two years ago. Three men’s basketball national championships are among its 30 D-II titles. Bakersfield also boasts 13 men’s D-II swimming/diving titles, the latest in 2004. Like GCU, the Roadrunners — who have been operating as an NCAA independent — join the WAC in the fall.
CSU Bakersfield opened a 75,000 square-foot recreation center in 2009 to assist with its athletic evolution. The university hosts more than 6,700 undergraduates in programs that include business and liberal arts. It also has a campus in a place named Antelope Valley outside Bakersfield.
The Vandals joined the WAC in 2005 after playing in the Big Sky Conference for more than 30 years. Idaho has announced it will leave the WAC after the 2013-14 season and plans to play as an independent in football. The latest team inducted into the Vandal Athletic Sports Hall of Fame was the 1998 football team, which defeated Southern Mississippi as a 17-point underdog in the Humanitarian Bowl (now known as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl). Under the “NCAA Team Titles” tab on its athletic department’s website, the university lists three – each for boxing, between 1940 and 1950.
The university is located in Moscow, which sits along Idaho’s northwestern border with Washington. The campus enrolls more than 9,500 undergraduates. Combined with grad students in nearly 60 master’s programs, including a law school, its students comprise nearly half of Moscow’s total population.
New Mexico State
The university has 16 sports programs, with football and equestrian among those not offered at GCU. The Aggies’ men’s basketball team (which lost to UCLA in the 1970 Final Four) has won three WAC championships since joining the conference in 2005. Like Idaho, New Mexico State plans to play football as an independent next year.
The university, in Las Cruces, N.M., has an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 14,500. Popular majors include criminal justice and nursing. It also boasts a non-profit institute dedicated to New Mexico’s chile pepper. Aggies fans are led by the school’s mascot, Pistol Pete — a mustachioed, Wyatt Earp lookalike based on a 19th-century New Mexican gunslinger.
Seattle joined the WAC last year. Football is not among its 18 athletic programs. It does, however, offer rowing. But soccer has been one of the Redhawks’ stronger programs, recruiting most of its players from the soccer-crazed Pacific Northwest. The men’s soccer team claimed Seattle’s first national championship (at the NAIA level) in 1997. NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor played on the 1958 men’s basketball team that defeated No. 1 Kansas State in the Final Four before losing to Kentucky in the championship. Basketball plays its home games at Key Arena, the former home of Seattle’s NBA franchise.
The Jesuit university has been listed among the Top 10 universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade. More than 7,700 undergraduates attend the university. Its law school, known as the top legal writing school in the country, is among 35 graduate programs.
The Wolverines accepted their WAC invitation in October at the same time as Cal State-Bakersfield. The university has played in the Great West Conference since 2008. All of Utah Valley 13 sports programs, except wrestling, will join the WAC. It also announced it will add men’s soccer by 2014.
In 2010, Utah Valley claimed an undergraduate enrollment of more than 32,000 at its campus in Orem, Utah. Degree programs range from ballroom dance to MBA, which is among five graduate level programs.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or email@example.com.