UC San Diego and the Journey to Division I Athletics
In late November, the University of California, San Diego, was officially accepted into the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I. This is a monumental jump for Triton athletics, as they were previously in Division II. The move to the highest division of collegiate athletics was met with overwhelming support from the Triton student body, who voted to enter this elite echelon. After a vote to increase fees in order to support athletic scholarships, the school will begin disbursing financial aid to its student athletes in 2020. The total of these scholarships comes to $5.8 million, a drastic increase. UC San Diego’s Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said, “We believe that this move will enhance the overall student experience at UC San Diego and heighten our sense of community and school price. It also demonstrates our commitment to uncompromising excellence across the board”.
UC San Diego will begin their transition into the Big West Conference, which has operated in collegiate sports for 49 years. The conference is comprised of 9 different universities, with 4 University of California schools also in the conference. These schools include UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Barbara. The Big West conference boasts 17 national team titles, and includes support for 18 different sports. California State University Bakersfield also received an invitation to Division I athletics along with UC San Diego. UCSD Athletic Director Earl Edwards shared his thoughts on entering this new conference, saying, “We’re going to go into the league as more or less the standard than the new kid on the block.”
Though UC San Diego has been accepted into this conference, it does not mean they all sports team will begin competing at this level. Men’s volleyball will begin competing in the Big West for the 2017-2018 season, and Women’s water polo will begin for the 2019-2020 season. The remaining spots will commence competitions in the Big West by the 2020-2021 season. In addition, the Tritons will have to wait until 2024 to be eligible for any Championship play. This is due to the 4 year period that is known as the “Reclassification Period”. Required by the NCAA, this allows the team to fully transition over a gradual period of time.
While known for being a well-respected academic institution, UC San Diego has been consistently ranking high while still competing in Division II athletics. In fact, they have ranked in the top 11 Division II teams in the country multiple times in past years. This only goes to show that the Tritons have their eyes set on developing a stronger foundation for athletics on their campus. Entering into the Big West is an investment in the importance of their sports teams, and will begin to establish themselves as an emerging athletic force among the more established programs like San Diego State.
With the Tritons sports team winning 30 national championships, entering into this tougher conference will certainly prove to be challenging. More competitive play will certainly test the toughness of the athletic program. The student body at this school certainly sees their university as being one with potential in making an impact in this division, as school spirit is at an all-time high currently.