UCSB is finally swimming with the big boys. After winning 26 of the last 34 Big West swimming titles, the UCSB men’s swimming team has joined the Pac-10 — a conference dominated by major athletic programs such as USC, UCLA and Stanford — for the 2010-11 season.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “But our team needs that challenge. We are excited beyond belief about this opportunity.”
The Pac-10 has the most national championships of any conference in the country in the Olympic sports, according to the Gaucho athletics website. With the benefit of the conference’s popularity, UCSB could eventually gain more exposure, which could lead to more top-quality recruits, who could bring in more money for the school’s athletic program.
“People want to be a part of a program that’s growing and moving forward,” Wilson said. “And we’re moving forward in a real tough time. When that economic pendulum swings back, we [as an athletic program] are going to be a good position.”
UCSB is currently undergoing the initial planning stages of a new aquatics center on campus.
Meanwhile, the women’s squad has joined the newly-formed Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference for swimming, which is also the home of the UCSB men’s volleyball and water polo teams.
According to Wilson, the women’s squad was rejected by the Pac-10 because the conference already had eight women’s teams participating. After Washington dropped its men’s swimming program, the Pac-10 only had five men’s swim teams. The addition of Cal Poly and UCSB gives the conference seven teams.
This season, the Gauchos took second place at the Big West Championships held in February.
The Pac 10’s championships will be held in March at the Long Beach Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool.
“All year long we’ve hung banners around school [that say] Dare to be Great,” said Wilson. “That’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re going for it.”