Two Southern California colleges with strong baseball programs will be in NCAA Division II for the 2012 season, and three more will be applying for membership in Division II on June 1.
Cal Baptist has been upgrading their athletic program for the past few years, and they remodeled their ballpark in 2007. They recently won their first Golden State Athletic Conference since 2006, and made their first trip to the Baseball National Championship since 1997. Cal Baptist supports 16 varsity sports. They have been accepted for membership in the Pacific West Conference, and will be competing in PacWest in 2012.
Cal State San Marcos is headed for the more prestigious California Collegiate Athletic Conference. This is an obvious move; most of the members of this conference have names that start with “Cal State.” CSUSM recently added men's and women's basketball to bring the number of varsity sports to 13. While CSUSM was moving in the direction of Division II anyway, their lack of a conference affiliation (membership in the GSAC is restricted to Christian colleges) was a drawback for their NAIA membership.
GSAC members Azusa Pacific, Fresno Pacific, and Point Loma Nazarene are applying for Division II membership on June 1. If accepted, they would be competing in Division II on 2013.
This move was an obvious one for Azusa Pacific. APU currently holds the Director's Cup for the NAIA, a recognition of a high-quality overall athletic program. They have won the Director's Cup for six straight years. APU has 15 varsity sports. They had a problem to solve with football; there is only one other NAIA school in California with a football team, and APU was running up Division I-level travel costs for football. Although the nearest Division II school with a football team is Humboldt State, APU will now be able to schedule opponents such as Western Oregon and Central Washington, and keep existing NAIA opponent Southern Oregon.
Point Loma Nazarene has had the strongest baseball program in the GSAC over the past few years. They won the championship in 2004 and 2009. They made it to the final of the Baseball National Championship in 2009, and the semi-finals in 2004 and 2009. Alumnus Mike Ekstrom is currently playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. They advertise Carroll B. Land Stadium as “America's most scenic ballpark.”
Fresno Pacific began their baseball program in 2006, and have had a record of 151-106 over five seasons. They went to the Baseball National Championship in 2009. Like Cal Baptist, they have been upgrading their overall athletic program, and field teams for 16 varsity sports.
APU and Point Loma are likely headed for the PacWest Conference; there was a lack of interest from the CCAA, and PacWest was considered a better fit because their current membership includes some “faith based” schools. The current conference champion is Hawai'i Pacific. Fresno Pacific is still looking at both the CCAA and PacWest. If all four GSAC schools end up in PacWest, it's a big win for that conference.
The departure of these four schools will have a serious impact on the caliber of baseball in the GSAC. The GSAC will be left six teams, three of which field good teams every year, Biola, The Master's, and Concordia-Irvine. The possibility is open that any of these schools could follow Cal Baptist et al into Division II. If this happens, the GSAC would no longer have enough teams to get an automatic bid to the Opening Round tournaments.
Update on June 2: Fresno Pacific decided to join PacWest.