Probably a top-10 team for that matter.
Entering their final game of the season against Azusa Pacific on Saturday in Santa Barbara, the Gauchos have a 7-2 record and have won six in a row. The Gauchos have won five of seven games against Division II schools and overwhelmed their two Division III opponents by scores of 51-3 and 59-0.
But Santa Barbara will not be participating in the Division III playoffs.
Under NCAA legislation known as the "Dayton Rule," the Gauchos are ineligible to compete in the Division III playoffs. The rule excludes multiclassification schools from the Division III rankings and playoffs.
The legislation was passed by Division III delegates in 1983 as a result of the University of Dayton's lopsided 63-0 victory over Ithaca of New York in the Division III championship game in 1980.
Like Dayton, Santa Barbara is a school that competes in Division I in every sport except football. Division III officials thought football programs such as Dayton's would have an unfair advantage primarily because they have larger student bodies and Division I athletes from which to draw.
Rick Candaele, first-year coach of Santa Barbara, said that is not entirely true with his school. He said although Santa Barbara does have an enrollment of about 16,000, the program recruits almost all of its players rather than rely on walk-ons.
The coach said that while it is frustrating for the team not to be able to qualify for postseason play, it is out of the team's control.
"It hasn't affected us that badly because we realized what the situation was before the season," Candaele said. "We've played seven Division II teams and we knew we didn't have 63% Division III teams on our schedule (as NCAA rules require) so we knew we weren't going to the Division III playoffs and we weren't going to the Division II playoffs, either."
Santa Barbara, which has competed as a Division III independent for four years since reinstating its intercollegiate football program, has intentions of moving to Division II in the near future.
The school is expected to officially apply for Division II status in June and also ask for a waiver of the traditional two-year waiting period.
Candaele thinks Division II is the right level for his team.
"It's still in the talking stages but it looks like that's what we'll do," he said. "We're hoping to be in Division II by next year. That's where we belong anyway and that's where we always thought we should be."
He said the team has always been competitive against Division II teams.
"We've always had a lot of Division II teams on our schedule," Candaele said. "All of our Division II games (this season) were real tough for us so that should be a good indication."
Candaele, who was also defensive coordinator of the Gauchos for three years and helped develop the program with one-time coach Mike Warren, said he is content to leave the formal decision-making process to school administrators.
"I think that decision will rest with the athletic department," he said. "For me it's just business as usual whether we go Division II or not. Our schedule will probably stay about the same either way. If that means we stay in Division III and can't make the playoffs, then that's what we'll do."
It does not appear as if that will happen. In fact, Candaele said Santa Barbara would probably fit perfectly into the Northern California Athletic Conference--a nonscholarship Division II conference--although the school has yet to formally apply.
Whether the team stays at Division III or moves to Division II, Candaele said it will remain a nonscholarship program.
"Under Division II rules we think that can work out well," he said. "I don't think we'll ever be a scholarship program."
Candaele hopes the team will eventually be able to compete in postseason play at the Division II level.
In the meantime, he said his team has been a little more emotional than usual for its Division III opponents. The Gauchos rolled over the highly regarded University of San Diego, 51-3, two weeks ago and overpowered Menlo, 59-0, Saturday.
"We've kind of looked at these last three games as our playoffs," Candaele said. "The University of San Diego was our first game, Menlo was the second and Azusa Pacific is our third."
That could hardly be good news to Azusa Pacific, an NAIA Division II team that has lost to both San Diego and Menlo.
The Cal State Dominguez Hills women's soccer team will be one of the favorites when it competes in the NCAA Division II final four tournament Saturday and Sunday at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.
The Toros enter the event ranked No. 2 in the division behind Barry. Dominguez Hills has an 18-2 record, Barry is 15-0-2. In opening matches Saturday, Dominguez Hills meets third-ranked Keene State (13-3-2) of New Hampshire and Barry will play sixth-ranked Adelphi (8-6-1) of New York. The winners meet for the title Sunday.
Dominguez Hills, making its first appearance in the final four, suffered its only two losses to UC Santa Barbara--ranked No. 7 in Division I. The Toros are led by senior forward Kristi White, who has 17 goals and 16 assists for 50 points and holds six school scoring records, and goalkeeper Chris Pezzulo, who has 15 shutouts and an 0.56 goals-against average.
Northridge, which won its sixth consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title with a 2-1 victory over Cal State Bakersfield last week, will have a bye in the first round, and San Luis Obispo (9-3-7) plays host to Northern California Athletic Conference champion Cal State Hayward in a first-round game Friday. The winner meets Northridge Nov. 18 in the second round.
Steve McFarland, who guided Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to its first NCAA Division II baseball title and a 38-25 record last season, has been selected 1989 District 8 Baseball Coach of the Year for Division II. McFarland, who has been coach of the Mustangs for six years, is also a strong contender for the national award that will be announced in December. . . . UC San Diego and La Verne are the top-seeded teams for the NCAA Division III West Regional women's volleyball playoffs Thursday through Saturday at La Verne. The six-team playoffs also include Cal State San Bernardino, Menlo, Colorado College and Eastern Connecticut. No. 1 San Diego and No. 2 La Verne have first-round byes.