When the California Baptist University Athletic Department announced the school’s transition from NCAA Division II to Division I in January 2017, it started a cycle of excitement and speculation.
When fall 2018 rolled around, the Lancers not only put all speculation to bed, but exceeded expectations and surprised a large number of fans in Riverside and beyond.
In the fall, both women’s volleyball and women’s soccer teams finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference, with Lancer volleyball qualifying for a trip to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Tournament.
The high point of the fall season came when the Lancers won their first DI conference title as the women’s cross country team took home first at the WAC Championships.
Then came winter along with the highly anticipated debut of DI CBU basketball. The Lancers did not disappoint on the hardwood. The men’s team amassed 16 wins and pointed out that was the most wins by any first-year DI team with four or less non-DI opponents.
Even more impressive was the women’s team winning nine games in a row in conference play and finishing as the second-place team in the WAC. Both squads hosted postseason games in a doubleheader that proved just how excited their fan base is for the future of Lancer hoops.
Do not overlook the impressive season CBU had in the pool, as well. The Lancers notched numerous WAC event wins and the men’s swim team secured a runner-up finish at the conference meet.
I have written a lot about Lancer teams adjusting to the DI climate. Most of it has been positive because, for a school in its DI infancy, all these vital signs are evidence of a long and healthy DI life.
Team national championships may be a bit further down the road — at least until 2022 because of NCAA rules — but once the Lancers are postseason eligible, CBU can do some damage.
New Mexico State’s men’s basketball team lost one conference game all season. That one loss was to CBU in the Lancer’s DI conference opener. The Aggies went on to win the WAC tournament and reach the NCAA national tournament, where they took power-five school Auburn University to the wire.
It is not too far-fetched to think that in the not-too-distant future CBU, a private school in Riverside, can play with some of the biggest names in college sports on some of the biggest stages in college sports.