Vanguard University Athletics Announces Acceptance As Provisional Member of the NCAA Division II

Costa Mesa, Calif. (July 13, 2023) Vanguard University (VU) has been notified today by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that its application for membership into the NCAA Division II (DII) has been accepted. VU Athletics will now begin the three-year membership process toward full membership in the NCAA Division II and will become the newest member of the Pacific West (PacWest) Conference. 

VU’s acceptance into the NCAA DII membership process follows years of significant evaluation of national athletic affiliation and VU Athletics’ future. 

“Born out of our institutional vision to become the leading source for Christian higher education in California and after extensive study—I am certain this upward transition to the NCAA DII will benefit our student-athletes and entire community,” said Michael J. Beals, Ph.D., president of Vanguard University. “NCAA DII allows students to participate in highly competitive athletics with a strong commitment to balancing athletics, academics, and community engagement—all while allowing VU to remain true to our enduring Christ-centered mission and values.” 

With much success over the past five years, including the launch of eight new sports programs; 20 conference regular season championships; 60 national championship appearances and four team national championships and four individual national championships just in the past decade—Vanguard Athletics looks to the next phase of its storied history, commitment to the student-athlete and program excellence.

The Pacific West (PacWest) Conference previously voted to extend membership to VU, pending today’s news of acceptance into NCAA DII. With provisional membership now secured, VU begins the three-year transition as follows:

  • VU will continue as a full member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) for the upcoming 2023-24 season. 
  • Beginning in 2024-25 and through 2025-26, VU will compete as a member of the PacWest Conference. During this time, however, VU will not be eligible to participate in the NCAA DII postseason.  
  • Assuming VU has met all the expectations and requirements of the NCAA Membership Committee, the Lions will become full members of the NCAA Division II and the PacWest Conference in the 2026-27 season and will become postseason eligible. 

In addition to providing strong competition and balance of sport and academics, membership in the PacWest allows VU to realign with regional peer Christian institutions and reengage former rivalries of the GSAC, including: Azusa Pacific University, Biola University, Concordia University Irvine, Fresno Pacific University and Westmont College. Generations of student-athletes, students, supporters, and fans will benefit from this transition and realignment. Additional member institutions of the PacWest include: Academy of Art, Dominican University of California, as well as Chaminade University of Hawaii, University of Hawai'i Hilo and Hawai'i Pacific University. 

“It’s a great day to be a Lion. I am thankful for the commitment, hard work, and deep conversations the Vanguard community has invested into this process. With our string of success on and off the playing surface, we believe Vanguard Athletics is positively positioned to take the significant step forward towards NCAA DII membership,” said Jeff Bussell, athletic director, Vanguard University. “Our student athletes and campus community are looking forward to rekindling old rivalries and traditions with our peer institutions in the region. We look forward to the growth opportunities and to seeing all that God has planned for us through the journey.”

Like VU’s status in the NAIA, Division II is a scholarship-granting association where current and future student-athletes will be eligible for athletics-based financial aid.

Lastly, this transition to NCAA DII parallels the construction and opening of the Freed Center for Leadership and Service—soon-to-be home to Vanguard Athletics and Kinesiology, the University’s third highest enrolled academic program. Both the transition to NCAA DII and the opening of the Freed Center demonstrate VU’s commitment to academics and athletics, whereby strong collegiate athletics rooted in academic excellence and character development provide for a dynamic student experience. 

For more information and updates regarding VU’s transition to NCAA DII, please visit our NCAA DII transition webpage.

Go Lions!


About Vanguard Athletics

Vanguard University has a rich tradition of intercollegiate athletics. Totaling more than 400 student-athletes across 19 men’s and women’s teams, Vanguard Athletics is dedicated to the holistic growth and development of all student-athletes, teaching them to lead Christ-centered lives on and off the field of competition. Whether it has been softball’s dominance with five Golden State Athletic Conference Championships; eight NAIA National Tournament appearances; women’s basketball’s dominance with 23 straight trips to the NAIA National Tournament, including bringing home the 2008 NAIA National Championship; women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer’s numerous NAIA National Tournament appearances from 2006-2019; men’s basketball’s 2014 NAIA National Championship; and most recently the 2023 beach volleyball and men’s volleyball National Championship; numerous individual national champions, including track and field, cross country and men’s wrestling—the athletics program has provided gripping moments in the history of Orange County’s first four-year college.

About Vanguard University
Founded in 1920, Vanguard University in Costa Mesa is a private, Christian, comprehensive university of liberal arts, sciences and professional studies that encompasses more than 2,200 students from every region in the country, over 33,000 alumni worldwide, 100 full-time faculty, over 30 undergraduate programs and six graduate degree programs. A hallmark of a Vanguard education is collaborative scholarship in the arts and sciences, which foster the intellectual development, moral maturity and spiritual vitality of its students for the public good. Rooted in a strong academic tradition and commitment to student success, Vanguard University is recognized by the U.S. News & World Report 2023 rankings as a first-tier regional university in the West, a Top Performer on Social Mobility, a Best College in the West for Veterans, a Best Value School and a Best Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program. 



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