About The Big West Conference
The Big West Conference enters the 2014-15 season in its 46th year of operation. There are 16 conference-sponsored sports in the Big West. Women's sports are comprised of soccer, volleyball, cross country, basketball, golf, tennis, softball, track and field and water polo. Men's sports include soccer, cross country, basketball, golf, tennis, baseball and track and field.
Over four-plus decades, the conference has striven for athletic and academic success, and has accomplished those goals to a large degree. The conference has undergone membership changes throughout its long history, with the most recent ones significantly enhancing its stability and national standing during a very unstable period of national conference realignment.
Following the 2004-05 academic year, Idaho and Utah State left the Big West, creating an eight-team league comprised of all California schools: Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific. A ninth school from the Golden State - UC Davis - joined the Big West ranks on July 1, 2007 after completing a four-year reclassification process from Division II to Division I. The Big West owned the distinction of being the nation's only conference with its entire membership located in one state.
However, that distinction changed on July 1, 2012 when the conference became 10 schools. The University of Hawai'i, which housed its women's programs in the Big West from 1984-96, accepted full membership to the league and bolstered its overall makeup with a strong legacy of athletic success and academic excellence.
Pacific departed for the West Coast Conference on July 1, 2013, but despite the change in membership, the future of the 9-team conference continues to capitalize on opportunities to grow its national profile.
Regardless of the membership profile, the Big West always has stacked up well against the rest of the nation. In fact, the conference has claimed 17 team national championships in its history, including six in women's volleyball, two in baseball, one in softball and one in men's basketball. Men's soccer was the newest sport added to the list when UC Santa Barbara claimed the national title in 2006.
Individually, Big West athletes also have claimed several national championships in such sports as swimming, track and field, and golf. UC Irvine senior Charles Jock became the 27th Big West student-athlete to collect hardware when he won the championship in the 800 meters at the men's track and field national meet this past June.
The conference's overall success has been measured through the results of such competitions as the Learfield Sports Directors Cup. Presented by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), the Cup gauges the best overall collegiate athletics programs in NCAA Division I according to their finishes in NCAA postseason play. In 2011-12, UC Irvine (No. 69), Long Beach State (No. 87) and UC Santa Barbara (No. 98) put three Big West schools within the top 100 for the first time since 2007-08 when the league had five. The Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association (DI-AAA ADA) All-Sports rankings witnessed UCI finish second overall among the 95 NCAA Division I non-football playing schools. LBSU finished fifth on that list in 2011-12.
Big West athletes also have succeeded on a worldwide stage in such international competitions as the Olympics, Pan-American Games and World Cup. A sampling of athletes who have competed at the Olympic level include Long Beach State's Tara Cross-Battle, Tayyiba Haneef-Park and Danielle Scott-Arruda (women's indoor volleyball), Pacific's Jennifer Joines and Elaina Oden (women's indoor volleyball), and Misty May (women's beach volleyball); UC Santa Barbara's Jason Lezak (men's swimming), Cal State Fullerton's Leon Wood and Bruce Bowen (men's basketball) and Jenny Topping (softball); Pacific's Brad Schumacher and Scott Weltz of UC Davis (men's swimming); UC Irvine's Steve Scott (men's track and field); and Cal Poly's Stephanie Brown-Trafton and Sharon Day (women's track and field).
Eight Big West athletes claimed a medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. May-Treanor won gold in beach volleyball for the third consecutive Olympics. Lezak, who swam the fastest anchor leg in history to help the United States win the 4x100 freestyle relay in Beijing in 2008, helped the USA to a silver medal in London. Scott-Arruda and Haneef-Park, along with UC Irvine coaches Paula Weishoff and Jamie Morrison, battled for the silver medal in women's indoor volleyball. Another UCI coach, Dan Klatt, helped the women's water polo team capture gold. Cal State Northridge alumnus Katie Holloway led her USA Women's Sitting Volleyball Team to a silver medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
The Big West Conference was formed as the Pacific Coast Athletic Association on July 1, 1969. However, the unofficial history of the conference pre-dates that point of time, extending back to 1967.
Cal State LA, Fresno State, Long Beach State and San Diego State were members of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, long recognized as the nation's premier college circuit.
That conference was classified college division, and therein lay a major source of dissatisfaction. Since 1963, the four institutions had captured 16 national titles. The number swelled to 21 if the mythical football championships were included.
With no more territory to conquer at the college division, a step up to university ranks had to be considered.
At the time, San Jose State, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific were members of the West Coast Athletic Conference but were enduring a strained relationship due to the limit of conference sports sponsored. That, plus the fact that national football figures PAC and SJSU were already competing as independents, led the schools to pursue a more broad-based conference alignment.
Therefore, officials of the seven colleges and universities assembled as a body in May of 1969, tied up loose ends and less than two months later the PCAA was born.
Direction in the early days of the conference came from such men as Dr. Stephen Goodspeed, vice-chancellor at UC Santa Barbara, the first president and chairman of the founders committee. J. Kenneth Fagans provided guidance as the league's first commissioner. Jesse T. Hill, one of the nation's most successful directors of athletics at USC, followed Fagans as the conference's first full-time commissioner.
SJSU was already labeled a university division school in all sports when the PCAA emerged. San Diego State and Pacific were granted university division status in the summer of 1970 and the remaining conference members shed the college division moniker by 1972.
The original PCAA lineup changed in the early years and by 1975, charter members UCSB and CSLA had dropped football and SDSU left the conference in football only. In 1974, Cal State Fullerton moved into the conference. By 1977, UC Irvine joined the Big West and UCSB was back in - both as non-football playing institutions - while Utah State became the first non-California member of the circuit, transforming the PCAA into a regional conference.
UNLV (1981) and New Mexico State (1984) soon followed suit, bringing the league's membership to 10 universities.
In the fall of 1983, the PCAA became the first western conference to incorporate women's athletic programs into the conference. Charter women's members UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UNLV competed in five championships.
By the end of 1985, Pacific, Hawai'i, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, San Diego State, Fresno State and San Jose State had joined the women's conference. The PCAA upped its women's sponsorship to eight championships.
The PCAA began its 20th year of existence in 1988 by changing its name to the Big West Conference. With the inclusion of the states of Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico, the term -Big West- more accurately represented the conference. Since the name Big West has been used, conference teams have won nine NCAA team championships, establishing the Big West's winning identity that is recognized nationally. Even though the Big West is again an all-California conference, the name Big West still embodies the identity, history, and tradition of excellence the conference has achieved, making it a well-known entity in collegiate athletics.
|BIG WEST MEMBERSHIP
||Length of Membership
|Cal State Fullerton
|Long Beach State
|UC Santa Barbara
||1969-70 and 76-77
||1984-85 (women only) and 2012-13
||12 years (women)/2 year (men)