LA JOLLA (CNS) - UC San Diego could know by May 9 whether its athletic department will be upgraded to Division I status in all sports but football, the head of the Big West Conference said Monday.
UCSD issued a report at the end of last week that expressed a desire to move up from Division I. But school officials also said the step required approval of membership in the Big West, a league that includes fellow UC campuses in Irvine and Santa Barbara, along with Cal State Fullerton and the University of the Pacific, among others.
No other leagues in the West were considered appropriate for UCSD, which would remain in Division II if turned down by the conference, according to school officials.
Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell told City News Service that athletic directors and administrators of member schools will meet the first week of May to go over UCSD's request, and could forward a recommendation to the league's board of directors -- the chief executives of the member schools -- for their meeting on May 9.
"I think they belong in Division I; they'd be an outstanding Division 1 institution," Farrell said. "Their profile is as a Division I member, a research university with a large student body and a large market."
The issue is not whether the Tritons are worthy, but their own league structure, Farrell said.
With the University of Hawaii joining the league for all sports but football -- which will compete in the Mountain West Conference -- UCSD would potentially be an 11th member.
The Big West currently has nine members. Farrell said 11 is workable but "awkward."
Cal State Bakersfield is also interested in membership, he said.
According to Farrell, the league could form two divisions, but that would break up some longstanding rivalries and create inequities among schools that would have to travel to Honolulu annually, while others did not.
The board of directors would need eight affirmative votes to take action, he said.
UCSD's 23 athletic programs competed in Division III until moving up a notch to Division II in 2000. The school is strong in baseball -- having reached the Division II World Series the past two years, water polo and women's soccer.
According to a UCSD statement, student leaders launched a study in the 2009-10 school year that led to the push to upgrade sports. Division I football was deemed too expensive.
"The idea was introduced by students as a suggestion to improve campus life," said Utsav Gupta, the 2009-10 student body president. "We partnered with campus leadership to secure a consultant to tell us what would be feasible. Now that the study has come out, we have a tremendous opportunity to explore taking the university and its athletics to the next level."
If the Big West supports UCSD's bid for membership, students would then vote in the 2011-12 academic year on a fee increase to fund additional scholarships. The jump to Division I would not come before the 2013-14 year.
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