Big brands, same mission

Kenton Jacobsen--Under NCAA, the school will have several changes and will now be sponsored by Nike.

The California Baptist University athletic department continues to grow with the rising student body population after being accepted into the application process for the NCAA Division II conference.

Along with the increased level of competition that the NCAA offers, CBU athletes also sport the Nike logo on their uniforms due to the recent sponsorship the school obtained with Nike.

Due to the increasing number of students at CBU, as well as the success of Lancer athletics, Athletic Director Micah Parker was prompted to make some big changes. After a year of preparation and mounds of paperwork, Parker and his staff were given the go-ahead to begin the transition to the NCAA DII conference.

“Our athletic department is trying to keep up with the growth of our school in general,” Parker said. “Our athletic department has grown just like the school has.”

After completing a 32 page application, the athletic department conducted a feasibility study to see how the sports programs are funded in order to prove that it can comply with NCAA standards and regulations. During this process, the Lancer athletic programs were compared to that of current NCAA Division II schools. In order to have the approval of the NCAA, CBU athletics has to prove that it can match the average Division II schools in competition and growth.

“Then we have to do a strategic plan that shows what we are trying to accomplish in the next five to 10 years,” Parker said. “With that strategic plan we have to document for them how we are going to become NCAA compliant, because there are a lot of things that we have to change.”

These steps are only part of the process. There are many regulations that CBU must become compliant with in order to be a part of the NCAA. The recruiting process, funding and many other student affairs have to be altered in order to abide by the more strict guidelines of the NCAA. The move from the NAIA has both its benefits and its costs. The overall transition will take about two years.

“The NCAA’s big thing for Division II is “Life in the Balance,” so they have more stringent restrictions on practice time and number of competitions,” Parker said. “Also, with eligibility there needs to be a third party that confirms whether an athlete is eligible or not.”

NCAA compliance requires more accountability within the athletic department. Staff members were added in order to monitor each team’s continuing cooperation with the new rules, but this accountability comes from more than just the administration.

“Compliance is everybody’s job; me, our coaches, the secretaries; everybody. We have a compliance committee, faculty athletic representatives, the registrar, admissions and financial aid,” Parker said.

CBU uniforms are also becoming more consistent in appearance and quality. The Nike sponsorship, signed in 2009, provides discounts on uniforms and equipment for all Lancer athletic programs.

“The rationale behind this is that we become standardized across the board so that we are all wearing the same thing,” Parker said.

The core values of CBU athletics will not alter with the change to bigger brands such as Nike and the NCAA. “Honoring Christ through excellence in Athletics” remains the Lancer mission statement.

“The change in association does not change the mission or direction of our school. There are Christian schools in the NCAA and there are obviously public schools as well. So, that’s not going to change,” Parker said.

With the addition of big brands like Nike and soon the NCAA, Lancer athletics has taken big steps forward in the continuing growth of the university. With the change in growth and the overall appearance of the CBU Lancers, one thing remains the same according to Parker, “We are not going to change the mission of our school and we are not going to change the Christian mission of our athletic department.”