NAIA to Strengthen Role of Conferences With Its Realignment

The National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics will replace its 32 districts with nine regions, hoping to strengthen the role of athletic conferences in championship qualification.

The move, in essence, will allow the NAIA to have a national playoff system like the NCAA's. For a conference to qualify its champions for regional or national competition, the conference must have a minimum of six schools participating in the sport in question and must have previously declared its intent to participate in NAIA postseason competition.

Members attending the NAIA-Athletic Directors Assn. convention at Atlanta voted for the change last Tuesday, 262-58. The new format will take effect in all sports next September.

Locally, Golden State Athletic Conference competition increases in importance. Under the old NAIA district format, district games were more important than GSAC games for seeding in NAIA regional and national tournaments.

"The stature of the Golden State Athletic Conference took on a new meaning with the adoption by the NAIA of an automatic qualification of conference champions to the NAIA championship events," GSAC Commissioner Cliff Hamlow said. "It will give the (GSAC) greater identity."

The GSAC comprises Azusa Pacific, Cal Baptist, Concordia (formerly Christ College Irvine), Fresno Pacific, Point Loma Nazarene, Southern California College and Westmont.

With the new rule, the conference may expand by taking in Biola and The Master's. Both schools are considering joining. And under the new system, it behooves schools to join an existing conference or form one of their own.

The winners of GSAC championships will advance directly to NAIA regional or national tournaments in eight sports: men's baseball, basketball, cross-country and soccer, and women's basketball, cross-country, soccer and softball.

The GSAC will have basketball tournaments for both men and women to determine automatic playoff berths in March of 1994. The men's tournament will be held March 5-8 at Whittier College and the women's at the sites of the highest-seeded teams, with the final on March 9.

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Marine Cano has been coaching both the men's and women's soccer programs at Cal State Dominguez Hills since 1985. Usually one team has more success than the other, but this year, there is a good balance.

Each team apparently has a good chance of going to the NCAA Division II playoffs. That is not an easy feat because the NCAA invites only two representatives from the West region to the postseason tournament.

The women's team has been the program of prominence recently, winning a national title in 1991.

And it was, perhaps, the best team in the country last year. Instead of inviting Dominguez Hills to the tournament, however, the NCAA invited Chico State and Sonoma State. Chico State had lost to Dominguez Hills and had a worse ranking but, because of a questionable forfeit, was declared the Northern California Athletic Conference winner and received a bid.

Third-ranked Sonoma State, also a member of the NCAC, could not be invited to the tournament unless the conference champion was also invited. That rule no longer exists at the NCAA Division II level.

Both Dominguez Hills squads are good bets to win California Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships this year.

And is the women's team, ranked sixth with a 7-3 record, on a mission because of last year's controversy?

"I think they were at the start," Cano said. "But the adversity of (recent) injuries made them deal with other challenges. We've had to make some changes to solidify our team."

One change was in the goal.

Sweeper Joanna Enserro started as a freshman on the 1991 national championship team, but leg injuries cut her effectiveness. So Cano moved Enserro to the goal and asked Heather Foote to move into the field. The switch has worked well.

"We are just about to the point where we have all pistons firing," Cano said.

The men's team is young--there are only three seniors--with speed, size and experience at attacking positions. Junior sweeper Ryan Robertson and senior forwards Kenny Hodge and Masa Fujiki provide the experience. They are ranked 20th with a 5-2-1 record.

Equally important has been the play of sophomore goalie Kevin Harmon. Harmon made two difficult saves in an overtime tie at Cal State San Bernardino last Saturday.

College Division Notes

Cal State Dominguez Hills appointed Sam Lagana as the associate athletic director for external operations, effective Oct. 12. Lagana was the assistant athletic director for marketing at Cal State Northridge. Lagana's duties will include fund raising, marketing and developing community relations and ties to Dominguez Hills athletics. . . . Bill Oates is the new athletic director at The Master's College. Oates will also coach men's basketball. He most recently was the basketball coach at Menlo College.

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