One of the nation's top NCAA Division II conferences - the California Collegiate Athletic Association - will get that much stronger as its Board of Presidents has voted unanimously to admit the University of California, Merced.
"We are thrilled to invite UC Merced into the CCAA," said Commissioner Allen Hardison, adding the move is pending the Bobcats' acceptance into NCAA Division II. "In just 18 years, UC Merced has already established itself as one of the top academic institutions on the West Coast and it was obvious to us that their athletic department has the potential to thrive in the CCAA. This expansion only adds to our vision for the Conference moving forward."
The CCAA, which is home to the most National Championships (155) of any NCAA Division II conference, is further enforced by the addition of this U.S. News & World Report top 60 academic institution. UC Merced will now begin its application process for NCAA Division II membership with the goal of competing on CCAA schedules beginning in the fall of 2025. UC Merced, which has over 9,000 enrolled students and currently competes in the NAIA's Cal Pac Conference, will bring nine sports to the CCAA (four men's and five women's).
"This is a momentous occasion for UC Merced, not just for our athletic program, but the entire university," said Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz, UC Merced's chancellor. "We are excited to provide this opportunity for our student-athletes, as well as our supporters, as we transition to NCAA Division II and begin competing in the CCAA, one of the country's most highly regarded Division II athletic conferences."
Adding UC Merced brings the CCAA membership to 13 institutions throughout the Golden State. This includes current members Cal Poly Humboldt, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State East Bay, Cal State LA, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State San Bernardino, Cal State San Marcos, Chico State, San Francisco State, Sonoma State, and Stanislaus State. These members combine to make up the largest enrollment of any conference in NCAA Division II.
"UC Merced Athletics is thrilled to be invited to join NCAA Division II and to find a home in the California Collegiate Athletic Association," said David Dunham, UC Merced's director of athletics. "We thank the Cal Pac and the NAIA for all the memorable years. We believe this is the correct decision for our athletic department and our institution."
UC Merced is expected to file its application with the NCAA by the February 1 deadline and then will officially begin its transition into the Conference. With the successful NCAA Division II membership application, UC Merced will enter a three-year transition period before earning NCAA active membership status. The 2024-25 season will be the Bobcats' last in the NAIA.
During its second year of the candidacy period (2025-26), UC Merced athletic schedules will include CCAA members, but the Bobcats will not be eligible for NCAA Championships. In the third year of the transition, UC Merced will be granted provisional membership in NCAA Division II and will continue to play a CCAA conference schedule but will still not be able to compete in the NCAA Championships.
The Bobcats will gain NCAA Division II active member status in the fall of 2027 as long as all benchmarks are met during the transition process and are eligible to compete in the NCAA Championships during the 2027-28 academic year.
The UC Merced athletics program will bring nine CCAA-sponsored sports to the conference including men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's track and field, and women's volleyball.