By Kevin Sweeney
Conference realignment is back at it again. 1 day after it was reported that UC-San Diego would be moving up from Division 2 to join the Big West, Stephen Hicks of ABC Channel 23 in Bakersfield is reporting that Cal State Bakersfield will be leaving the WAC to join the Big West. CSUB will begin its affiliation with the Big West effective July 1, 2018 but will not be eligible to compete for championships until July of 2020, per a press release from the University. CSUB will remain in the WAC until 2020, but presidents and AD’s will attend meetings beginning in 2018.
The move is a surprising one. CSUB had been rumored in the past to have interest in moving to the Big West, but nothing had ever materialized for a variety of reasons. Now, after the most successful run in program history that included a trip to the NCAA Tournament and a run to MSG in the NIT last season, the Roadrunners depart the unstable WAC and head to the more geographically-friendly Big West.
However, this leaves the future of the WAC in serious doubt. UMKC has been rumored to likely be in their final year of WAC play, while both Grand Canyon and New Mexico State have partaken in discussions about moving out of the WAC in recent years. While the league does have Cal Baptist joining beginning next year, this could wind up being a crushing blow to the future of the conference, as it leaves the WAC even more unstable should one of the league’s 2 premier programs decide to depart. The one saving grace is that the WAC does have a bit of time to get its affairs in order if you will, but there will remain very serious questions about the future of this conference going forward.
From a basketball perspective, the move is a no-brainer for the Big West, which has struggled of late. The move could boost recruiting efforts in California for future classes for CSUB, helping them continue their rise as a mid-major power and boost the Big West’s level for years to come.