CSUSM Officially Transitions to NCAA
By Eric Breier
The California State University San Marcos athletics program has come a long way since its inception in 1998.
Back then, the athletics department was housed in three small rooms in Craven Hall. The department had two coaches for its six teams – men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track and field, and men’s and women’s golf.
Times have certainly changed.
Today, CSUSM has 13 teams and more than 300 student-athletes. The University’s facilities have grown to include a track, baseball and softball fields and, most recently, the state-of-the-art Sports Center, home to men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball.
The athletics department celebrated another important milestone on July 14 as CSUSM President Karen Haynes and Director of Athletics Jennifer Milo received confirmation from the NCAA that the University is now a full-fledged Division II member after successfully completing a three-year transition period.
“This move benefits our athletics program on multiple levels,” Haynes said. “During the transition to Division II, we have been establishing exciting rivalries with regional universities, our student-athletes have been able to spend more time in the classroom thanks to reduced travel time, and our University is better aligned athletically with schools of similar size and stature. This is another great day for the University and our athletics program.”
Completing the transition means CSUSM teams are eligible for Division II postseason play beginning with the 2017-18 academic year. Schools aren’t eligible for the postseason during the transition process. For the 2016-17 academic year, 10 of CSUSM’s 13 teams would have made the postseason had the University been eligible.
Though the transition period was technically three years, this was a move was more than 10 years in the making as CSUSM has long worked to position itself for a move from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to NCAA Division II.
As an NAIA member, CSUSM joined the Association of Independent Institutions in 2008-09, a nationwide conference comprised of independent squads from across the country. While CSUSM enjoyed great success competing at the NAIA level, it was never a natural fit for the University. While most NAIA schools are smaller, religious institutions, CSUSM is a larger public university enjoying continued enrollment growth every year. The move to NCAA Division II allows CSUSM to compete against institutions of similar size while creating natural regional rivalries.
The move to Division II also allowed CSUSM to join the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), which has been the nation’s most successful Division II conference since its establishment in December 1938. CCAA members have won 153 NCAA championships (102 men, 51 women), more than any other Division II conference.
Twelve of the CCAA’s 13 members are in the California State University system; the only non-CSU school is UC San Diego.
Division II emphasizes excellence in the classroom as well as in competition, which aligns with CSUSM’s mission to put the student first in “student-athlete.” In fact, 67 percent of CSUSM’s student-athletes had a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher last year, the best mark in department history.
"Our student-athletes are students, first and foremost," Milo said. "The NCAA Division II philosophy reinforces this. The move to Division II is directly in line with our department’s mission and values. We want our student-athletes to graduate and develop into well-rounded individuals who will be successful beyond their life on the playing field.”
The athletics department will host a public celebration for students, faculty, staff and the community at noon on Aug. 31 at The Sports Center to mark CSUSM’s milestone of completing the transition to NCAA membership.
Visit csusmcougars.com to learn more about Cougars athletics.
A Timeline of CSUSM’s Department of Athletics
1989: CSUSM founded
1998: Individual sports initiated (men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s track and field)
1998: Groundbreaking on Mangrum Track and Soccer Field
2003: Completion of M. Gordon Clarke Field House/University Student Union
2004: Dr. Karen S. Haynes named president of CSUSM
2006: Athletics adds baseball, softball and men’s and women’s soccer
2009: Senior Woman’s Administrator and Assistant Director of Athletics for Compliance and Student Services appointed
2009: Student-Athlete Advisory Council created
2010: Softball field completed
2010: Student Fee Referendum passed to expand athletics department by adding men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, cheer, scholarships and support staff
2011: Baseball field completed
2012: Jennifer Milo appointed Director of Athletics
2014: Application submitted for NCAA membership on Feb. 1
2015: Successful completion of NCAA DII Candidacy Year 1
2016: Successful completion of NCAA DII Candidacy Year 2
2016: Grand opening of The Sports Center on Sept. 1
2017: Successful completion of NCAA DII Provisional Year