Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics

The Final Countdown: Tritons One Year Away From Move to Division I

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. – The University of California San Diego athletics program is exactly one year away from its move to NCAA Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. Coming off of a successful penultimate year in Division II, the Tritons will look for a strong finish in 2019-20 as they prepare to compete in Division I starting in 2020-21. The transition is one that has been eagerly anticipated by the athletic program, fans, and the San Diego community since the announcement in 2017.

“I’d say the announcement of the transition has affected the program on two levels,” said UC San Diego Director of Athletics Earl Edwards. “The first level is the overall excitement of moving to a higher level of competition, the idea that we’re going to bring the campus together, and national exposure, so all of those things have been extremely positive. 

“The second level is that we had a very successful year last year at Division II, and we’re expecting to do something similar this upcoming year, so the idea of celebrating Division II adds to that excitement.”

UC San Diego concluded its impressive 2018-19 campaign as the runner-up for the NCAA Division II Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup, which is given to the nation’s best athletic program based on points that are awarded for how a predetermined number of sports perform. The second-place finish was the Tritons’ best in 12 years, as well as their third runner-up finish since moving from Division III to Division II in 2000-01.

Additionally, UC San Diego’s successful 2018-19 year earned it the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Robert J. Hiegert Commissioner's Cup. The honor is given to the school in the conference with the top overall athletics performance during the academic year. With 98.48 points, the Tritons captured their eighth Hiegert Cup in program history.

During the year, eight UC San Diego teams earned regular season titles and/or tournament championships. The Tritons’ success continued into the postseason as 18 teams competed in NCAA postseason play, with 13 participating in the NCAA National Championships. In addition, men’s rowing took part in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship. 

Going undefeated in CCAA action (22-0), women’s basketball captured the conference’s regular season and tournament titles. At the helm of the program is Heidi VanDerveer, who has seen a positive reaction to the upcoming Division I transition.

“I think the perception has been tremendous,” said VanDerveer. “Recruits understand that UC San Diego will give them the balance of world class academics with Division I competitive basketball all in San Diego. It’s the total package.

“Also, I think we complement the schools in the Big West, and they’ll be excited to come to San Diego. It’s going to be a great opportunity and a great challenge at the same time.”

Men’s Soccer Head Coach Jon Pascale has seen a similar reaction with the transition approaching.

“Since the announcement, and over the past year, there’s been so much excitement and momentum building towards the move,” said Pascale. “The number of people, not only in the soccer community, but in the San Diego community, that seem to be educated on the transition and are excited for it is neat. I think it gives you a glimpse of what’s to come in the future and how big this is going to be.”

When the athletics program enters the Big West in 2020-21, a pair of Triton teams will already be competing in the conference. Men’s volleyball has been a member of the Big West since the 2017-18 season, while women’s water polo is set to join the conference for the upcoming 2019-20 season.

The upcoming 2019-20 year will mark two decades of competition at the Division II level for the Tritons. UC San Diego will fully transition to Division I on July 1, 2020.


About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 82 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 37 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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