Grand Canyon University accepts invite to West Coast Conference

GCU adds to premier conference’s West Coast footprint beginning in 2025-26

(May 10, 2024) – The remarkable renaissance of Grand Canyon University and its athletic programs took another step forward today after the university officially accepted an invitation to join the West Coast Conference beginning in the 2025-26 academic year.

GCU, which was near bankruptcy less than two decades ago, is now the largest private Christian university in the country and is the only NCAA Division I university with its main campus in Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the U.S.

“We have been blessed in the past 16 years to become one of the fastest-growing institutions in the country with a true national footprint that is drawing students from all 50 states,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “This is due to our high-quality academic programs and innovative delivery platforms. Athletically, our teams have also emerged, going from a Division II power to a championship caliber high mid-major program in Division I in a very short time.

“We are incredibly excited for this next opportunity to join the WCC, which is one of the nation’s premier athletic conferences as well as one of the premier basketball conferences in the country.”

Membership of the WCC is in a tight Western footprint that consists of private, faith-based and service-oriented institutions in California, Oregon and Washington. GCU will join nine existing members: Gonzaga, LMU, Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara. Joining GCU in transitioning from the WAC to the WCC on the same timeline is Seattle U.

“The WCC Presidents’ Council is committed to positioning the West Coast Conference as one of the premier NCAA Division I conferences in the nation,” WCC Commissioner Stu Jackson said. “Grand Canyon University matches the mission and vision of the WCC with a focused investment in the holistic student-athlete experience. Under the leadership of President Brian Mueller and Vice President of Athletics Jamie Boggs, GCU has established itself as a nationally recognized institution with a robust athletic profile and a commitment to competitive excellence. The expansion of the WCC footprint into one of the nation’s top media markets further enhances the national visibility of the Conference. This is a monumental day for the WCC.”

The WCC provides increased television exposure, lower travel costs with less travel time for student-athletes and a strong presence within GCU’s geographic footprint.

The WCC has also become a multiple-bid conference for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament due to the quality of programs within the conference. In the 2024 NCAA tournament, 12th-seeded GCU defeated WCC champion and fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s in the first round for its first-ever victory in the D-I tournament before falling in the second round to eventual Final Four team Alabama. GCU has represented the WAC in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in three of the past four years.

The conference’s strength does not stop with men’s basketball, as the WCC is frequently a multi-bid conference in a variety of sports. In the last four years, the conference has sent multiple representatives to the NCAA tournament in 36 of 54 opportunities for the 14 sports GCU will compete in.

With over 25,000 students on its 300-acre Phoenix campus and another 92,000 studying online, GCU’s ascension as an academic institution is exemplified by the nearly 30,000 graduates it has produced each of the past three years. Since 2008, the university has tripled the number of academic programs, emphases and certificates to over 300 and expanded the number of colleges from 4 to 10 by focusing its curriculum on high-growth job fields such as engineering, computer science, cybersecurity and business while also making significant investments to address nationwide workforce shortages in areas such as teaching, nursing and counseling.

GCU’s enrollment growth has occurred while also raising admissions standards, with incoming GPAs of approximately 3.6 each of the past six years. In addition, GCU’s Honors College has grown to 3,000 students with average incoming GPAs of 4.1.

Athletically, GCU’s ascension has mirrored that of the university. In its final two years at the D-II level, GCU was honored with the Learfield Directors’ Cup as the highest-performing athletics department in the nation. At the Division I level, GCU has won 67 conference championships including 38 in the last four years. The WAC Commissioner’s Cup, which is presented to the conference’s top-performing athletic department, has been won by GCU in the last five fully completed academic years. In the past calendar year alone, the Lopes have won NCAA tournament games in softball, men’s basketball and men’s volleyball.

After successful completion of a four-year transition to Division I, GCU has been postseason eligible since 2017-18. In those seven short years, 12 of GCU’s programs have sent teams to the NCAA postseason, while five more programs have qualified individual competitors for NCAA Championships. In 2023-24, GCU finished the season ranked or is actively ranked in the top 100 nationally in all eight sports that utilize NCAA Ratings Percentage Index or NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings.

“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity afforded to GCU by the Western Athletic Conference in supporting our D-I transition and beyond,” said GCU Vice President of Athletics Jamie Boggs. “We look forward to being great partners with the WAC and our peer institutions during our final academic year as members. GCU has successfully built a nationally competitive athletics program during our time in the WAC, an era that will always be an important piece of our university’s history.”

Of GCU’s 21 sports, 14 will make their new home in the WCC. The conference does not sponsor men’s volleyball, swimming and diving or track and field. Men’s volleyball will continue to compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, where the Lopes recently captured a conference tournament title and reached the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. GCU’s process of evaluating conference options for swimming and diving and track and field is well underway.

The WCC has a multi-year media rights agreement with ESPN and CBS Sports Network. Lopes fans can continue watching conference games on ESPN+. In men’s basketball, ESPN televises 17 regular-season games on linear networks and CBS Sports Network televises up to 12. Six games from the WCC Basketball Tournaments — also played at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas — air on ESPN linear channels. Four games in other sports will be televised on an ESPN channel.

For the 2024-25 academic year, GCU will continue to compete in the WAC before transitioning to the WCC on July 1, 2025.

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About Grand Canyon University: Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is Arizona’s premier private Christian university. GCU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers 337 academic programs, emphases and certificates for both traditional undergraduate students and working professionals. The University’s curriculum emphasizes interaction with classmates, both in-person and online, and individual attention from instructors while fusing academic rigor with Christian values to help students find their purpose and become skilled, caring professionals. For more information, visit gcu.edu.

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