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Dominguez Officials See Rosy Future for CCAA’s Division II

Times Staff Writer

Despite the pending defection of powerful Cal State Northridge to Division I and the realization that other California Collegiate Athletic Assn. members may make similar moves, representatives at Cal State Dominguez Hills see continued prosperity for the Division II athletic conference.

In fact, they say, CCAA athletic directors have discussed expanding the conference--possibly to 10 teams--as soon as Northridge moves up.

CCAA publicity director Grayle Howlett agreed that expansion is a possibility. “Some athletic directors have informally discussed it,” Howlett said.

Howlett said he expects “a long discussion” about the future of the conference at its spring meeting June 2-3. Northridge, winner of 33 national titles, is expected to formally tell the CCAA then that it will be leaving, possibly within two years. Conference bylaws mandate a minimum of one-year notice for a change.

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That would leave the CCAA with seven teams in all sports but football, where only three of eight members field teams. Besides Dominguez Hills and Northridge, other CCAA schools are Cal Poly Pomona, Chapman College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State L.A., Cal State Bakersfield and UC Riverside.

San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and Riverside have expressed interest in moves to Division I. That could hamper the conference’s expansion plans but not terribly, according to acting athletic director Dan Guerrero at Dominguez Hills.

“If other schools go to Division I it is not imminent,” he said. “The conference will still be seeking expansion. We’ll just have to speed it up.”

Mentioned as possible replacements or expansion candidates are NAIA basketball powers Westmont College and Biola University, Division III Cal State San Bernardino and Division II independent Sacramento State.

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According to Biola Athletic Director Dave Holmquist: “If we ever go Division II (the CCAA) would be the conference we would want to play in.” Holmquist said Biola is studying the ramifications of a move to Division II.

“We are exploring it, but I don’t know how serious we are,” he said.

Dominguez Hills basketball Coach Dave Yanai said Biola would “do very good in this conference. They’re a natural eighth team.”

But Guerrero said smaller schools like San Bernardino, looking to build stronger programs, may be “more like it.”

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Northridge officials announced plans to go Division I last winter following a 2 1/2-year study. But it was only a few weeks ago that President James W. Cleary detailed his intentions. He noted that a committee recommended the move because “Division II status no longer meets students’ needs because of the difficulty in scheduling teams which will provide sufficiently challenging competition.”

Thanks to its location in a booming population center in the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley, Northridge has seen its enrollment increase dramatically in the last decade to more than 30,000, largest in the CCAA and about the size of Cal State Long Beach, which has always competed in Division I. Cal State L.A. boasts 23,000 students, but the remaining CCAA members are not nearly as large. Dominguez Hills has about 7,800.

Guerrero said he favors expansion.

A seven-team conference would pose scheduling problems, according to Yanai, but nothing the conference could not handle.

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Yanai said, however, that the loss of Northridge “would create a void immediately” in many ways for the CCAA.

Dominguez Hills Baseball Coach Andy Lopez said the loss would “put a dent in the conference. This has been a good baseball conference. Fantastic. Good caliber five days a week. You see good players. It hurts a quality conference when you loose a competitive program.”

But softball and volleyball Coach Jennifer Gorecki sees the Northridge move as positive for Dominguez Hills.

“It will give all teams in the conference more incentive to stay there and look realistically at a chance to get into postseason play,” she said.

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Northridge has dominated the CCAA in most women’s sports, winning three national volleyball titles and the past four softball crowns.

“You knew you were playing for second, third or fourth place,” Gorecki said of the Matadors’ dominance. “This will give everyone a chance at a title that previously everyone knew was locked up from year to year.”


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