July 22, 2010

 

Courtesy of Cal State Bakersfield Athletics

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. –
In an occasion Winston Churchill undoubtedly would call the end of the beginning, the California State University, Bakersfield Intercollegiate Athletics program officially completed its reclassification process and will begin a new era as a full, active NCAA Division I member, effective September 1.

“It’s been a long and arduous journey to full Division I membership, but it’s been a journey well worth making,” says CSUB President Dr. Horace Mitchell, whose vision and leadership provided the catalyst for change more than five years ago.

The University received a letter from the NCAA Division I Administration Cabinet stating that the Division I Leadership Council approved the recommendation to elect CSUB to active Division I membership beginning with the 2010–11 academic year. As part of the reclassification process, CSUB completed the NCAA Division I certification program. In testimony to the thoroughness with which it completed the transition process, CSUB received its certification without conditions. This means it did not have to meet any additional requirements in order to earn its certification and will not have to meet additional requirements to maintain its Division I membership.

“While our Intercollegiate Athletics program has just officially earned the Division I label, our commitment to providing Division I caliber opportunities in terms of academic excellence, community engagement and the student experience remains unchanged,” adds Mitchell.

The announcement has special meaning for CSUB Athletic Director Rudy Carvajal, who built Roadrunner Athletics brick by brick from a fledgling NCAA Division II program in 1972, to Director’s Cup champion in the 1990’s, to active Division I membership in 2010.

“Today is one of the proudest days I’ve experienced in my three decades at CSUB,” says Carvajal. “So many people deserve recognition for the achievement we celebrate today, starting with Dr. Mitchell, our students, faculty, staff, community supporters and, of course, our coaches and student–athletes.

“This isn’t a culmination, but rather the first fruits of those efforts.”

The most visible impact of certification is eligibility for NCAA Division I team, individual and statistical championships. During the four years of reclassification, Roadrunners teams, with the exception of wrestling and water polo, were not eligible for championships or NCAA Tournament play. In fact, the Roadrunners lost out on one title during the process when softball pitcher Brittany Johnson led the nation in fewest walks allowed in 2008 but was not eligible to win the NCAA statistical title. She was the first player from a reclassifying school to lead the nation.

“After four years in limbo, this changes everything,“ says Men’s Soccer Coach Simon Tobin, whose team will be the first to compete for an NCAA Tournament automatic bid when it battles for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title this fall.

“This certainly levels the playing field. Now, instead of playing just to win games, we’re competing for championships at the highest level of college sports.”

Where the men’s soccer team will compete for the first team automatic bid, Head Coach Robert Boyles and the women’s cross country team will compete for the first individual automatic NCAA bids.

“Finally, we have a carrot at the end of the stick,” Boyles says. “The NCAA postseason is not theoretical anymore. We know that if we do what we need to do, we’ll get where we want to go. That’s a great motivating factor.”

Spurred by passage of a student fee referendum in the spring of 2005, the Roadrunners began their transition to NCAA Division I status when Mitchell announced the University would enter its exploratory year in 2005–06. The formal four–year transition process began in 2006–07. The Roadrunners passed each year of the certification process with flying colors leading up to Wednesday’s final announcement.

CSUB was one of three universities in the “graduating class” to full DI status this year. Like CSUB, Central Arkansas received certification to active Division I status. As a reminder that the process is far from automatic, however, Winston-Salem State did not complete the process and is headed back to Division II in 2010-11.

CSUB becomes the ninth California State University campus to successfully make the jump from NCAA Division II to full NCAA Division I status. The other CSU campuses in that group are:
    • Cal Poly
    • Cal State Fullerton
    • Cal State Northridge
    • Fresno State
    • Long Beach State
    • Sacramento State
    • San Diego State
    • San Jose State

All 19 of CSUB’s teams are now NCAA postseason eligible. Furthermore, due to conference affiliations and NCAA qualifying rules, 14 CSUB teams and/or their players can earn automatic qualification into NCAA postseason play:
    • Cross Country
    • Golf (M)
    • Golf (W)
    • Soccer (M)
    • Indoor Track & Field (M)
    • Outdoor Track & Field (M)
    • Indoor Track & Field (W)
    • Outdoor Track & Field (W)
    • Softball
    • Swimming & Diving (M)
    • Swimming & Diving (W)
    • Tennis
    • Water Polo
    • Wrestling