UC San Diego To Jump to Division I, Join Big West Conference

The University of California San Diego will complete its expected jump to the Division I level and will join the Big West Conference in 2020.

The school announced the move today, though the jump to Division I has been widely expected after the student body voted in the spring of 2016 to more than double its student fees to help fund the move.

The transition period between Divisions II and I will start in the fall of 2020, with UCSD ineligible for conference or NCAA titles at the Division I level for four years. That mean’s the fall of 2024 will be the school’s first season competing as full Division I members.

It’s hard to say what impact the Big West inclusion will have on the swimming landscape. The Big West hasn’t included swimming & diving as a conference sport since 2010, but during that year, all of its remaining members with swimming programs jumped into the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). That could be a natural landing spot for UC San Diego, currently featuring just 7 women’s teams and 5 men’s teams.

It seems unlikely the Big West would look at bringing swimming & diving back at the conference level with only a handful of member schools still supporting swimming & diving. San Diego is currently in the Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference for swimming & diving, though the school was a member of the Division II CCCA for most of its sports.

A couple sports will be joining the Big West early. Men’s volleyball was already set to be an associate member of the conference’s inaugural season this spring, and women’s water polo will join the Big West in 2019-2020.

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What’s the reasoning behind the 4 year waiting period before a team can compete at the championship level in a new division? It seems like a punishment that would potentially hurt recruiting as schools attempt to be competitive in their new division.


Agreed. That’s a LONG delay. They’re still looking at 7 more years. Marsh turns 60 next month. He will be 67 by then. He might not even be at San Diego that long.

dmswim – it has to do with compliance. NCAA compliance rules are different for different divisions, and one argument for the 4 year waiting period: swimmers who came to the school with understanding of D2 eligibility and compliance rules will abide by those, everyone who commits over the next 4 years will know the different standards that they are agreeing to be held to.

Jim jones

We they become d1, Will individual swimmers be able to compete at NCAA d1 tournaments?


Can someone explain to me the exact benefits of going D1 for a school like this? Reputation?


Back in 2011 they did a feasibility study of moving to DI and adding football. The entire paper is on the athletic website for review. I would expect they would like to add football and there is only one DII school in CA with football, so travel expenses would be sky high for a DII football team.


Thank you. I will take a look. I just fear that a school like this could cut swimming after moving up.


I don’t think they are planning to add football, although that was considered in the 2010 proposal. The 2016 student referendum proposal this time specifically did not include football, which would require a lot more money as well as building of appropriate facilities.


Ahhh okay. I just was glossing over the proposal and there was a lot about adding football, which would not bode well for other men’s programs. UCSD definitely has a lot of potential with Marsh there in the coming years. They could possibly get to the level that Queens is at right now.

JP input is too short

Speaking of Marsh, I saw a bunch of videos on IG recently of him coaching at SwimMAC… which I found a bit odd considering it’s the middle of UCSD’s season. Just an observation.


He went home for thanksgiving – 2 of his kids are in College in NC, and his extended family is in the area as well. Not to mention he still owns Team Elite which has a Charlotte branch. Thanksgiving time is probably an easy time to get away for a few days, especially with D2 training expectations…

Coach Marsh Fan

I am hoping that UCSD will make the commitment to fully fund the swimming program so that Coach Marsh can appropriately attract some world class talent


I like what Marsh has done as a coach. I’m not quite certain about UCSD being able to bring in “world class” talent when California is already pretty deep with top notch swim programs (Cal, USC, Stanford), and Arizona is right next door with Bob Bowman bringing up ASU. Consider that there are already other D1 schools with good swim programs (UCSB, Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield, UoP) that are still not able to attract what I would consider world class.

Coach Marsh Fan

exactly what they said about Auburn back in the day 🙂


If UCSD has a compliance department worth a squirt, Marsh will only be mediocre to good.


The University of San Diego is also D1. Women only unfortunately.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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