In an age of endless football-driven conference realignment (most recently, Pittsburgh and Syracuse joining the Atlantic Coast Conference this weekend), it is refreshing when schools and conferences stop to consider their baseball programs. The Western Athletic Conference announced Monday that Cal State Bakersfield and Dallas Baptist will join the conference as baseball-only members starting with the 2012-13 academic year.
The additions will give the WAC a total of 10 teams for baseball, as the Roadrunners and Patriots will join Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Sacramento State, San Jose State, Seattle, Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State in 2013. The additions of UTA, UTSA, DBU and Texas State in the Lone Star State, plus Seattle and CSUB on the West Coast, make the new-look WAC a strong mid-major baseball conference. The WAC remains spread out geographically, but at least it has schools clustered together in the Texas area.
“CSU Bakersfield and Dallas Baptist will be a good fit with the baseball teams in the WAC,” WAC commissioner Karl Benson said in a release. “We expect that they will match up well both competitively and geographically.”
CSUB is entering its fourth year as an independent Division I member after announcing in 2007 that the school would add baseball beginning with the 2009 season. In just its third year as a program, Cal State Bakersfield went 33-22 last season and finished the season ranked 53rd in the Ratings Percentage Index.
"We are very excited to accept the invitation and have our baseball team join the WAC," said Bakersfield Director of Athletics Jeff Konya. "It's a testament to the excellent work done by our coaching staff, our student-athletes and our program. All have worked tirelessly to make our baseball program an attractive conference member in such a short time."
Dallas Baptist had previously hoped to join the Missouri Valley Conference and was slated to play an MVC schedule over the next two years as part of a transition into full membership. But the opportunity to join the suddenly Texas-centric WAC simply made more sense geographically.
Dallas Baptist has enjoyed a long, storied tradition of winning baseball with 32 consecutive winning seasons. As a past NAIA member, DBU qualified for 10 NAIA World Series tournaments between 1984-2002, and was ranked in the top 10 for 16 consecutive seasons. In its first six years of active membership at the NCAA Division I level and competing as an independent team, DBU has a record of 208-132 and, in just its third year as a Division I member, received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, becoming the first independent team to make a NCAA Regional since 1992. The Patriots made their second regional this year and won it, advancing to super regionals, where they lost to California.
“The President, Board of Trustees, and Administration at Dallas Baptist are excited about the opportunity for membership in the Western Athletic Conference,” said Dallas Baptist director of athletics Ryan Erwin. “Our baseball program is the flagship program for our university and has a history of success at the NAIA and NCAA Division I level, and the WAC will be an outstanding conference as we continue to grow and move forward.”
With the addition of Cal State Bakersfield and Dallas Baptist in 2013, the WAC will play a single round robin (three-game series) schedule that results in nine weekends of conference play and a total of 27 games for each member.
As for the new ACC members, it's unclear if Syracuse will bring back its baseball program, which was discontinued in 1972. A Syracuse spokesperson has not yet returned a request for comment.
The Big East now finds itself on very uncertain ground. Expect more dominoes to fall soon.
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