Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Pioneers are Back!

Originally Posted on November 8, 2009

This is really tough to say, but I believe I’m too old for collegiate sports.

Let me explore this for a moment, when I finishing up my undergraduate studies, the university I attended just cut millions of dollars form their budget. The axe fell on varsity intercollegiate sports. The President of the university justified these cuts as to concentrate on the core competencies of the institution – it’s business school.

Well, at least that’s how I saw it. I was in the Arts Letters and Social Studies school at California State University, Hayward (now East Bay). Obviously, we never benefitted from the budget shuffle which intercollegiate sports made way for other programs across campus. After all, they were completing their then-new satellite campus tucked away between Concord and Walnut Creek.

That was in 1993 – when I finally received my Bachelor’s in History. Joys of joys – right?

A week ago, I learned that my undergraduate alma mater is back in the NCAA this season. Yep, Cal State East Bay is now a Division II school participating in men's and women's basketball, baseball and a few other sports in the California Collegiate Athletics Association (CCAA).

Prior to their re-engagement with the NCAA, Cal State East Bay Pioneers re-upped their intercollegiate program under the NAIA for several years. Joining the NAIA was a bargain budget way to explore the intercollegiate athletics route. It certainly worked as the demand for NCAA sports throughout the West Coast increased. With NCAA membership comes scholarships and scholarships attract top-flight athletes.

However, the members of the CCAA have to deal with the “pecking order” of schools attracting the same athletes to their programs. Obviously, the Division I schools get first crack. There are markets where the CCAA rubs up against a few Division I schools that dominate the sports and recruiting markets. Depending on how established the Division II program is in relation to a particular location, the athletes attending CCAA schools may be perceived to be the “leftovers” from the recruiting pool.

This is where a new member such as Cal State East Bay has to rely on luck. A student-athlete looking to the Pioneers may not have the grades worthy of a Division I scholarship, figure they’ll want to have a better balance between academics and athletics at one of Cal State East Bay’s programs or would rather stay close to home. Then again, there are a ton of reasons a student-athlete may want to participate in the Cal State East Bay intercollegiate sports program.

As an alumnus, I’m glad my alma mater rejoined the NCAA. As a grad student at a Division III school (St. Mary’s (MN) participates in a limited number of sports in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) out of their main Winona campus), it’s refreshing to see Division II athletics flourish again in my home state, especially when I witnessed how D2 schools fare here in the Upper Midwest. Sure, Cal State East Bay is a suburban/urban university, but I can see the progression of how it will succeed when I see a program such as Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall or at Winona State University.

Good luck to my alma mater in their maiden season in NCAA’s Division II. Oh, and Go Pioneers!

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