West Coast Conference Tells Seattle No Expansion
Seattle University’s dreams of returning to NCAA Division I athletics won’t happen in the West Coast Conference — at least not in the immediate future.
WCC commissioner Michael Gilleran has informed Seattle U officials that conference presidents have decided against any expansion now or in the foreseeable future, all but ending the Redhawks’ hopes of rejoining the conference.
Seattle U, a member of the WCC from 1971 until 1980, was once a Division I power, with a heritage that included a number of NBA players, including Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor. Financial strain and athletic struggles led the school to drop out of Division I.
“This was a decision the WCC took regarding its conference and size rather than decision about Seattle U,” said the Rev. Stephen Sundborg, university president. “We had not applied, so it was not a judgment about Seattle U.”
Last October, Seattle U started a formal review of its athletic affiliation, specifically to determine if a return to Division I, and ideally the WCC, was feasible. The school had intended to go to its board of trustees on May 10 with a recommendation to go Division I, stay at Division II or examine other athletic affiliations.
The university was up front with WCC members about its desire to apply for conference membership if the school’s board of trustees approved a move back to Division I. The WCC consists of private schools of similar size and mission, including Gonzaga, Portland and Saint Mary’s.
The WCC presidents met during last week’s WCC basketball tournament in Portland, Ore. After the tournament concluded, Gilleran informed Seattle U of the presidents’ decision.
The timing was a surprise.
“I had not anticipated at this time they would come to a clear and definitive decision,” Sundborg said.
Messages left for Gilleran were not immediately returned.
The path toward Seattle U’s Division I bid began with the hiring of Joe Callero as men’s basketball coach. The Redhawks have improved in recent seasons and were Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions this year.
Callero got the news of the WCC’s decision just before leaving to the NCAA Division II west regional in Arcata, Calif.
“I’m not completely shocked by somebody saying not right now,” Callero said while sitting in San Francisco International Airport. “It’s kind of the nature of decision making that there is nothing guaranteed. I still think we’re a fantastic fit.”