Announcing Cal State Northridge's athletic conference change are (l. to r.) Long Beach State President Robert Maxson, CSUN Interim President Louanne Kennedy and CSUN Athletic Director Dick Dull.
CSUN Interim President Louanne Kennedy, Athletic Director Dick Dull and Long Beach State President Robert Maxson, chair of the Big West's Board of Directors, held a news conference to announce that CSUN and the University of California at Riverside will be joining the reshaped conference.
The likely and much anticipated result starting in mid-2001 will be a 10-member Big West Conference comprised of four Cal State campuses including CSUN, three University of California schools, one California private university, and just two out-of-state universities.
"We really are delighted to accept this offer. We're really delighted to be part of the Big West Conference, to be able to play natural rivals," Kennedy said. "The ball went up, and the question was, 'Were we going to catch it?' " the president added, saying the campus could not pass up the opportunity.
CSUN's new conference affiliation will be a marked change from its current membership in the Big Sky Conference. Northridge is one of only two California schools in the nine-member conference, where away games are played against opponents in seven different states from Arizona to Washington.
Big West directors voted Wednesday, Feb. 9, to admit CSUN and UC Riverside effective July 1, 2001. Other members will be Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and University of the Pacific, along with the University of Idaho and Utah State.
"For us in Southern California, what a wonderful, natural, wholesome rivalry this will be among our campuses," said Maxson, calling CSUN's move "a special pleasure for me." Maxson added, "I think Northridge is just an excellent university. It's very good academically."
Big West and CSUN officials predicted the conference's concentration of California universities will excite fans and generate increased interest in athletics at all member schools. In many cases, even CSUN's future away games will be within driving distance from this area for fans and athletes' family members.
The change should mean future travel costs will be reduced in CSUN's Athletic Department, and student-athletes will miss fewer classes because of the shorter road trips involved. Officials also cited the "family" appeal of competition between so many Cal State and UC campuses in Southern California.
Kennedy said CSUN will continue to field its current collection of 20 intercollegiate teams, 10 men's and 10 women's. No sports are being dropped as a result of the conference change. CSUN football will remain NCAA Division I-AA, but shift to independent status in mid-2001.