After years of speculation, men’s volleyball is coming to the Big West.
The Big West announced Tuesday that it would become the nation’s first multi-sport Division I conference to sponsor college men’s volleyball beginning in the 2018 season.
The conference’s board of directors approved a six-team league primarily comprised schools that were already members of the Big West for other sports.
CSUN, Hawai’i Long Beach State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara as full members of the Big West will leave the MPSF for the new volleyball conference. In addition, UC San Diego will depart the MPSF and join the Big West as an associate member for only men’s volleyball.
“The Big West Conference is thrilled to add a sport that is so popular in our region and is growing on the national level,” Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said in a statement.
Big West teams have won a combined six NCAA championships, including UC Irvine winning four national titles in the last 10 years.
Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and Hawai’i also finished last season ranked in the top 10 of both the national coaches poll and the national media poll.
“This is something that has been a dream of men’s volleyball for some time. To be a part of the first conference, to take a step in that direction of official growth is exciting for us,” UC Irvine coach David Kniffin said in a statement. “It’s also exciting to be a part of the first conference in the United States where we actually now offer all three sports, from women’s volleyball to sand volleyball to men’s volleyball. It’s exciting to be part of truly a volleyball conference.”
With six teams, the Big West meet the NCAA’s conference-size minimum requirement to receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. It will become the fifth college men’s volleyball conference along with the EIVA, MIVA, MPSF and Conference Carolinas to have a NCAA Tournament automatic berth.
Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe said in a statement that the addition of the Big West will help further increase the amount of schools and conferences interested in men’s volleyball.
“I do believe that it’s going to give men’s volleyball a stronger position to have a traditional conference back our sport. My ultimate goal would be that it would help spur even more growth throughout men’s volleyball and within our championship with the NCAA,” Knipe said. “Men’s volleyball makes a lot of sense in the Big West. It’s a legitimate sport for the Big West to play for national championships and to get the Big West patch on these schools when they’re participating. It’s a wonderful endorsement by our conference to have faith in what we’re doing to our sport that they want to be a part of this. I think it validates 20-30 years of work that men’s volleyball coaches within the Big West have been putting in, and I’m super excited about it.”
The Big West also announced Tuesday that its 2018 conference schedule will be a double round-robin format comprised of 10 matches. All six teams will qualify for the Big West Tournament at the end of the regular season with that event’s champion receiving the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
That regular season format will give Big West teams an opportunity to schedule 18 non-conference matches each season — a 12 non-conference match increase compared to last year’s MPSF schedule.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee in recent years has placed an increased emphasis on teams scheduling more non-conference matches. Among the recent examples of teams being rewarded in part for playing more non-conference matches included Long Beach State, which earned the final at-large bid to the recent NCAA Tournament.
The MPSF with the addition of the Big West will reduce to six teams in 2018 and be comprised of BYU, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Cal Baptist and Pepperdine for men’s volleyball.