SAN MARCOS, Calif. – It’s a twist on an old question, but the answer is clear at Cal State University San Marcos: If life gives you a chicken ranch, make an athletic program and watch it soar.
From those humble beginnings, to earning National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II status in 2017, the school is now celebrating the 20th anniversary of CSUSM Athletics.
CSUSM opened its doors in 1990 but it wasn’t until 1998 that the Cougars started keeping score in six sports: men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country and track & field teams. Baseball, softball and men’s and women’s soccer were born in 2006. The growth continued in 2010 with the addition of men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball, bringing the total number of squads bleeding Cougar blue to 13.
From 1998 through 2015, the CSUSM Department of Athletics was affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I) Conference. CSUSM had great success in the NAIA, the Cougars accounted for three NAIA national championships (women’s cross country, 2009-11), three NAIA individual national championships, 208 NAIA All-America selections and 26 A.I.I. conference championships.
The perseverance of the student-athletes, staff and community members during those years facilitated what came next for CSUSM Athletics. In 2017, the department was granted full membership to the NCAA Division II and admission into the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), which has been the nation’s most successful Division II conference since its establishment in December 1938.
Among the highlights in the inaugural year as NCAA DII members, women’s cross country finished 8th at nationals, the women’s golf team won the school’s first CCAA title, Natalie Rodriguez had national finishes in both cross country and track & field, third and fifth respectively. Volleyball head coach Andrea Leonard and men’s and women’s golf head coach Greg Hutton earned CCAA Coach of the Year. The Cougars had four additional CCAA top-five finishes in volleyball, men’s cross country, men’s basketball and women’s soccer. In addition, CSUSM Athletics placed a conference-high 41 student-athletes on the CCAA Spring All-Academic.
“We have put CSUSM Athletics on the national stage in our first year of eligibility,” Director of Athletics Jennifer Milo said. “For years, our student-athletes have been successful in the classroom, on the playing field and in the community while our coaches have been exemplary leaders. It’s through their efforts and our NCAA membership that we are getting the recognition we have earned through the solid foundation that was started 20 years ago.”