By Kevin Sweeney
The Division 1 basketball ranks continue to grow.
Dixie State University will be the latest program to make the jump to D1, as they announced in a joint release that the University will join the WAC beginning July 1, 2020. They will be the 355th Division 1 team, with Savannah State dropping down to Division 2 following the 2018-19 season, Merrimack joining the NEC in 2019, and UC San Diego joining the Big West in 2020.
For the WAC, it’s the latest program they’ve helped make the move up as the league attempts to remain viable. The addition of Grand Canyon has certainly earned the conference significant notoriety given the ‘Lopes’ early D1 success. More recently, the league added Cal Baptist, which sits at 9-7 in its first season of D1.
Like GCU and CBU, Dixie State has the potential to have immediate success in the WAC. DSU has an on-campus arena that seats over 4,700 and has been a consistently competitive D2 program. The Trailblazers haven’t won fewer than 18 games in a season since 2008, including a 23-7 mark last season. DSU also beat UNLV in an exhibition in 2013 and lost by 2 to Wyoming this season.
The men’s basketball program is coached by Jon Judkins, who has been their coach for their entire D2 era.
“Dixie State University is located in the fastest growing city in America and in a state that is supporting higher education at unprecedented levels,” Brian Mueller, Chairman of the WAC’s Board of Directors said per a release. “The university has a growing student body and is investing in excellence in their academic and athletic programs. They have some outstanding athletic facilities, including a Division I level basketball arena. Like Grand Canyon and California Baptist, Dixie State will be competitive immediately and will be a strong contributor to the continued growth of the Western Athletic Conference.”
Dixie State will have to go through a four-year Division 1 transition process where they will be ineligible for postseason play before becoming full members of Division 1 beginning in the 2024-25 academic year.
The WAC will now have nine programs as of 2020. As of now, Dixie State will be an FCS Football independent as the WAC does not offer football, though rumors have swirled of possible further WAC expansion that would eventually create a WAC FCS football conference.