UC Merced to join California Collegiate Athletic Association with move to NCAA Division II

UC Merced is set to join the California Collegiate Athletic Association when it makes the jump from NAIA to NCAA Division II, according to university officials.

The California Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Presidents voted unanimously to add UC Merced. The move is pending UC Merced’s acceptance into NCAA Division II.

“This is a momentous occasion for UC Merced, not just for our athletic program, but the entire university,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “We are excited to provide this opportunity for our student-athletes, as well as our supporters, as we transition to NCAA Division II and begin competing in the CCAA, one of the country’s most highly regarded Division II athletic conferences.”

UC Merced will become the 13th member of the CCAA, joining current members Cal Poly Humboldt, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State East Bay, Cal State LA, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State San Bernardino, Cal State San Marcos, Chico State, San Francisco State, Sonoma State and Stanislaus State.

The CCAA has the largest enrollment of any NCAA Division II conference. CCAA teams have combined to win 155 national championships, which is the most of any Division II conference in the country.

UC Merced will now begin its application process for NCAA Division II.

“We are thrilled to invite UC Merced into the CCAA,” conference Commissioner Allen Hardison said. “In just 18 years, UC Merced has already established itself as one of the top academic institutions on the West Coast, and it was obvious to us that their athletic department has the potential to thrive in the CCAA.”

UC Merced currently competes in the NAIA’s Cal Pac Conference and will bring nine sports to the CCAA, including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s track & field.

Men’s volleyball, men’s water polo, and women’s water polo will be playing in a different conference.

“UC Merced athletics is thrilled to be invited to join NCAA Division II and to find a home in the (CCAA),” said UC Merced director of athletics David Dunham. “We thank the Cal Pac and the NAIA for all the memorable years. We believe this is the correct decision for our athletic department and our institution.”

UC Merced is expected to file its application to move up to Division II to the NCAA by the Feb. 1 deadline and then will officially begin its transition to the CCAA.

If its application is accepted, UC Merced will begin a three-year transition period before earning NCAA active membership status. The 2024-25 season will be UC Merced’s last year in the NAIA.

UC Merced will be able to play CCAA schools during 2025-26 but won’t be eligible for NCAA championships. The Bobcats will gain active NCAA Division II member status in the fall of 2027 if all the benchmarks are met during the transition process and will be eligible to compete for NCAA championships.