In 2017, the Big West Conference announced that Cal State Bakersfield (CSUB) and UC San Diego (UCSD) would begin the process of joining the conference. This year, the two universities will make their first competitive appearances in the Big West.
Both schools have had different paths to their new conference. CSUB is moving from the Western Athletic Conference into the Big West, and UCSD is transitioning to become a Division I school as part of the Big West.
These changes will add new competition to inter-conference play. Women’s Basketball forward Kirsty Brown said she is excited about the new-look conference.
“The new teams will definitely make the conference more competitive,” Brown said. “The team is excited about them joining.”
Baseball first baseman and San Diego native Tate Samuelson reflected on UCSD moving into the conference.
“[UCSD is] one of the most competitive Division II schools for baseball in the area,” Brown said. “They will be very competitive in the Big West.”
Cal Poly will be facing UCSD for the first time as a Division I opponent, but CSUB will be familiar competition. Baseball has played CSUB every season since 2011 as non-conference competition, and Women’s Basketball last faced them in a 59-57 win in 2017.
“It’s going to be different since we are so used to the rest of the teams in the Big West,” Brown said. “We’re used to [the current] teams and we know how they play, who their players are, and how they are different and similar.”
Brown said that watching film on how similar opponents have played against the new conference members gives an insight into how to strategize against them.
“It’s hard to tell about UCSD since they were Division II, but from what we have seen in film, [Cal State] Bakersfield will be an aggressive and fast team, much like UC Riverside,” Brown said.
For Cal Poly Baseball, the new teams don’t phase them as they try to build off of the success they were beginning to see last season before it was cut short due to COVID-19.
“I don’t think it changes our hunt for a conference title,” catcher Myles Emmerson said. “It does not change our approach of taking one day at a time. We want to win every series.”
“We can only control how we play as a team, so that’s our main focus,” pitcher Andrew Alvarez said. “In all reality, the name on the jersey shouldn’t have an effect on how we play. It’s all about handling our business.”
Now that UCSD and CSUB are going to be regular conference opponents for Cal Poly teams, the new away games will add to how much the Mustangs enjoy competing in the Big West.
“The UCSD Stadium is beautiful and there are so many Cal Poly alumni that are either from or reside in Bakersfield so we have had lots of support when we go and play there, so that is a positive advantage that we will have,” Samuelson said.
“[I’d love] to have the opportunity to play a conference series in my hometown [San Diego] in front of my entire family,” Emmerson said. “I could also show the team my favorite taco shop.”
The Big West now has 11 teams in total, with teams all across California and even Hawaii, and the growing size is an exciting change for Cal Poly athletes.
“The additions were a good decision, we’re really excited to play them,” Brown said. “We’re working hard to prepare for them, things have been up in the air but we’re ready to go.”