More GCU Teams Will Have a Home in WAC Than in PacWest
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
One benefit already has surfaced in GCU’s move to NCAA Division I athletics in the Western Athletic Conference: More GCU sports teams will have a direct affiliation with the WAC than the University currently has in the D-II Pacific West Conference.
The WAC currently hosts 18 of the 21 NCAA sports that GCU competes in – an increase of three from the PacWest.
Women’s swimming, men’s indoor track and field, and women’s indoor track and field all will have homes in the WAC next season. Women’s swimming currently is affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and indoor track and field belongs to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“It will actually enhance the conference experience,” GCU’s head track and field coach, Tom Flood, said of the move to the WAC. “From my perspective, it won’t change much schedule-wise. We already have a D-I schedule.”
The WAC has three core men’s sports (soccer, basketball and baseball) and three core women’s sports (soccer, basketball and volleyball) in which members are required to field teams. In addition, the league currently also has enough members that field teams in softball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, and women’s swimming to host those NCAA sports.
That leaves only men’s swimming, wrestling and men’s volleyball teams at GCU needing new homes outside of the WAC – just as they do outside of the PacWest.
Steve Schaffer, GCU’s head swimming coach, said GCU will make inquiries about joining the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for his men’s team.
“From looking at the times, our guys would have finished third in the MPSF last year,” Schaffer said of his team, which finished fifth at the D-II national meet. “The MPSF is more of a mid-major at the D-I level (in men’s swimming). … Our guys match up well with them.
“We’ve already been recruiting at the Division I level; you have to in order to be successful in Division II. So we’ll build on that moving forward.”
Wrestling will look to become an affiliate of either the Pac-12 Conference or the Western Wrestling Conference.
The move to D-I initially will be difficult for individual sports such as wrestling, swimming, and track and field because athletes in those sports build everything toward the postseason national meet. GCU won’t be eligible for the postseason during a four-year transition period to Division I.
“Short-term there will be some hurdles we have to get over,” said R.C. LaHaye, head wrestling coach. “Luckily, we have some good young guys who will help us get through that.
“Long-term this is a great move for the University. In two or three years, we’ll really be able to load up a recruiting class. The quality and caliber of athlete I can recruit now (as a Division I school) is limitless.”
Men’s volleyball will be affected least by the move to the WAC, as that sport already combines Division I and Division II teams. As such, GCU also will be eligible for the postseason immediately.
GCU’s head coach, Jeremy Price, said next season the Antelopes will remain in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, which currently has four Division I teams (Ohio State, Loyola of Chicago, IPFW and Ball State) to go along with four Division II teams (including GCU).
“We’re excited,” Price said. “If you look at our schedule, we’ve already got teams like Ohio State coming to our campus this season. There are not many sports that can say that.
“We’re used to competing against Division I competition.”
Price was on the recruiting trail last weekend in California and said there already were student-athletes aware that GCU was making the jump to D-I.
“To say we’re a Division I school, it does matter,” Price said of the recruiting advantages that will come.
Women’s sand volleyball, which makes its debut this spring at GCU, is in a similar position to men’s volleyball. GCU, as the only current Division II school to offer the sport, already competes in the postseason tournament with D-I teams and will be immediately eligible next season. There are no conferences yet in sand volleyball, so all teams advance to the national tournament.
Sand volleyball is not an official NCAA sport yet because there are not enough schools nation-wide that carry the sport.
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.