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College sports: Big changes for GSAC ahead

The Master’s College will likely be playing in a seven-team conference

Posted: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Since 2001, The Master’s College has been part of arguably one of the most dominant sports conferences in the country at its level.

The heralded Golden State Athletic Conference will soon have an entirely different look.

Four of the conference’s best teams are likely on the way out the door after receiving approval to move to the NCAA Division II level.

“We’ll still have a very competitive schedule,” said 15th-year baseball coach Monte Brooks. “Our league won’t be as equitable at large, but we’ll still have teams that will be competing nationally.”

One of those schools, California Baptist University, was approved last year by the NCAA and will no longer compete in the GSAC according to the school’s website.

The other three — Azusa Pacific University, Fresno Pacific University and Point Loma Nazarene — reported that they received word from the NAIA on July 11 allowing them to begin the trial process toward joining Cal Baptist.

It’s unlikely that one sport or one season influenced the schools to apply for DII status, said Chuck Martin, TMC men’s basketball head coach.

“It’s not a one-sport decision,” Martin said. “From a basketball standpoint, the coaches in our league appreciate and understand the competition. They understand the advantages and the disadvantages (of moving out of the conference).”

On one hand, he explained, the NCAA has the perception of bigger and better athletics as a whole. On the other side of the coin, the GSAC has developed the reputation of success within the NAIA.

“I think that our league is, top to bottom, the best league in the country,” Martin said.

Since the conference formed in 1986, it has collected 40 national championships and eight individuals from schools have claimed NAIA titles.

Azusa Pacific has won 19, more than any other current member, while Fresno has nine and Point Loma doesn’t have any.
Still, the GSAC’s seven remaining teams are nothing to sneeze at.

Concordia won its third national championship in school history this past spring, claiming the NAIA baseball title. Westmont has four NAIA women’s soccer titles under its belt since 1999 and Vanguard is a perennial powerhouse in women’s basketball.

TMC is the most recent addition to the conference, but due to differences in academic and religious standards, Brooks argued, it has had to play from behind against some of the schools with higher enrollments.

“We’re a little bit on a similar level with the changes,” Brooks said. “We’re a little more even with budget and finances. There’s a little bit more equality in terms of finances.”

The Master’s College hasn’t won any team titles, but has appeared in the NAIA national tournaments in multiple sports and seen one individual NAIA title in men’s track and field.

With some of the top teams vacating the conference, The Master’s College could move up the pecking order in the GSAC.
For that reason, it’s unlikely TMC has any plans to join the migration to the NCAA.

“I think it would be a real stretch to imagine The Master’s College any time in the near future making that move,” Martin said. “And I don’t think anyone in the GSAC has any concerns that they’re going to have a viable conference going forward.”

The three teams that gained approval this month will continue as usual inside the GSAC for the 2011-12 season, after which a Division II committee will decide whether the schools can move to the next stage and depart from the NAIA.

The entire transition takes three years. Cal Baptist is entering year two, where it will become a member of the NCAA’s Pacific West conference — the same one Azusa, Fresno and Point Loma look to join next year.

For the time being, Brooks said there’s no word on whether or not the GSAC plans to add replacement teams.

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