Five rookie Pioneers soccer players received athletic scholarships. CSUEB coaches expect the move to Division II to allow them to attract higher caliber players.
Fall marks a new beginning as the Pioneer athletics department makes the move into National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II competition. With the start of practice for the fall sports on Aug. 10, CSUEB took its first step in elevating the intercollegiate athletics program to new heights.
“School spirit, enthusiasm, and a definite bolt of electricity has already hit this campus,” says CSUEB women’s volleyball head coach Jim Spagle, in his 14th year at the helm. “People are talking about athletics. There is a buzz on campus that exceeds anything I have seen at Cal State East Bay.”
Over the past year, the Pioneer athletics department has been transformed as the move to Division II has brought expansion, organization and a growing sense of excitement. With CSUEB gaining the ability to distribute athletic scholarships to student-athletes, the recruiting process has changed for the better, allowing coaches to attract higher-caliber players.
“Having athletic scholarships is going to make a big difference because not only can we bring in higher skilled players, but also retain them without worry that they might have to leave school for financial reasons,” says CSUEB women’s basketball head coach Toni West, who spent the month of July on the recruiting trail.
Those players will be key for the Pioneers who begin competition as a “scheduling partner” with the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) this season. Composed of 12 universities, the CCAA sponsors 13 intercollegiate sports. The league boasts strong competition across all of its sports, claiming 148 NCAA championships all-time, the most among Division II conferences. Last year, Cal State Dominguez Hills men’s soccer and Sonoma State men’s golf collected national championships, while Cal State San Bernardino women’s volleyball and men’s golf, and Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball each claimed national runner-up status.
“The offer of a scholarship and the chance to play for the new coaching staff are what attracted me to Cal State East Bay,” says freshmen Tyler Andersen, one of five men’s soccer rookies to receive an athletic scholarship. “I had the chance to play at other schools but when I came here I felt at home and I felt that, with the coaches and the opportunity to play in Division II, this was a good place to progress my playing career.”
For Cal State East Bay, the transition to Division II will provide both opportunities and challenges. As with any athletics department moving to a higher level of competition, the Pioneer administration and coaches are optimistic about the future but cautious in their expectations, especially early in the move.
“Membership in the CCAA and Division II are positive changes for our department,” says Director of Athletics Debby De Angelis. “Our coaching staff is capable of helping our student-athletes make that move. Our staff and student-athletes are all up to the challenges we will face in the transition.”
The first discussion of a move to Division II began in 2007 and was followed in 2008 by approval by the NCAA to start the transition process and acceptance into the CCAA. CSUEB is currently in its second year of candidacy for Division II, a three-year process. As an exploratory member of Division II and the CCAA, Cal State East Bay is not eligible for conference championships or NCAA postseason competition this scholastic year.
“The entire staff is on a mission to provide the resources and ingenuity required for a successful jump into NCAA Division II,” Spagle says. “I am very proud of the commitment our university has made to allow this transition to take place. I’m confident that CSUEB will become a destination university for students across the country.”