OREM, Utah - Utah Valley University announced Friday that its softball team has accepted an invitation to join the West Coast Conference beginning in 2013-14.
The UVU softball program currently competes in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, but the league will cease operation at the end of the current season. The PCSC had served as home for five softball-playing institutions in the WCC, but with the WCC announcing its softball sponsorship, these institutions - along with new WCC member Pacific and UVU and CSU Bakersfield as affiliates - will return to the conference for the 2014 season.
Softball will be the WCC's 14th sport and UVU will join BYU, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Saint Mary's, San Diego, Santa Clara and fellow affiliate member CSUB. The WCC champion will receive an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"Joining the WCC is a great opportunity for us as we will be competing against some very strong and familiar programs," interim head coach Rachel Hartgrove said. "Being in the WCC will allow our athletes to compete against some of the top programs in the country and also be able to play close to home since a lot of our recruiting is based out of California. The schools we will be playing then are the same ones we are currently playing in the PCSC, and with the addition of Pacific, it will definitely be a tough conference."
For the most part, UVU softball will not experience a dramatic change of scenery in joining the WCC. All opponents on this season's PCSC schedule will be opponents in the WCC beginning in 2014. The only unfamiliar foe will be the Tigers of Pacific who are leaving the Big West for the WCC in all sports next year.
The new conference affiliation will mark some changes in Utah Valley's league scheduling. Rather than playing an annual four-game series with conference opponents, per the format for the PCSC, the WCC will involve three-game annual series' that alternate sites every year.
The PCSC has already diminished some this season, as five former members departed to the Big Sky Conference after it announced it would offer softball for the first time in 2013. Those schools include former PCSC Mountain Division rivals Portland State, Northern Colorado, Weber State and Idaho State, as well as Coastal Division member Sacramento State.
The changes result in a seven-team, one division PCSC for the final year of the conference for 2013.
In October, the entire UVU athletic department announced its acceptance of an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference for the 2013-14 season. While the WAC does currently sponsor softball, several schools, like San Jose State, Utah State, UTSA, Louisiana Tech, Texas State and UT-Arlington, have announced their defection from the conference in 2013, leaving it without enough softball-playing members to be eligible for an automatic bid into the NCAA postseason.
The Wolverines will begin their 2013 season at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah, against South Dakota and Southern Utah on Feb. 8.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.