CSU Bakersfield is reportedly the latest team to get bit by the realignment bug.
The ‘Runners will leave the WAC and enter the Big West in 2020, according to a tweet from Stephen Hicks, the Sports Director for the ABC affiliate in Bakersfield.
CSU Bakersfield athletics switching conferences moving from the WAC to the Big West in 2020. UC San Diego also to join @BigWestSports— Stephen Hicks (@StephenHicks23) November 27, 2017
The move would be a natural one for CSUB, which plays in one of the most geographically-dispersed conferences in the country. The Big West is currently made up entirely of schools from California, with the exception of Hawaii, and CSUB would join four other schools — Cal Poly, Cal St. Fullerton, Cal St. Northridge and Long Beach State — that are part of the California State University system.
UC San Diego is also expected to transition to Div. I and join the Big West.
From a basketball perspective, the Big West would be adding a program on the rise. CSUB is coming off a tremendous two-year run, which included an NCAA Tournament appearance, NIT semifinal appearance, and regular season WAC title.
While 2020 is far removed from that window, it appears Rod Barnes has built a sustainable program. Despite losing a number of key players, the ‘Runners have solid early season wins against Lamar and Idaho, and have gotten key contributions from several newcomers (Jarkel Joiner, Rickey Holden). Its defense has also continued to operate at a high level, checking as the 109th-most efficient in the country per KenPom.
The question now is how the WAC responds.
The league faces the prospect of losing a program that had begun to establish itself, dealing an eventual blow to its overall profile. Cal Baptist is set to join the league next season in its first year transitioning to Division I, but a conference that had been stable for four seasons is in flux yet again.
Will this accelerate any efforts other schools — particularly New Mexico State and Grand Canyon — may have been making to explore other conference options?
The Big West had seemed a natural fit for CSUB, and there are other league schools with similar potential affiliations, such as UMKC (Summit), UT Rio Grande Valley (Atlantic Sun) and Utah Valley (Big Sky). Without an aggressive response from the WAC, the move could put the league’s existence in jeopardy.