We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Vanguard Announces Transition to NCAA Division II

Vanguard University is beginning a three-year provisional process toward becoming an NCAA Division II school.
COSTA MESA, Calif. – Vanguard University (VU) has been notified by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that its application for membership into the NCAA Division II (DII) has been accepted. VU’s athletic program will now begin the three-year provisional process toward full membership in the NCAA Division II and will become the newest member of the Pacific West (PacWest) Conference.

With unprecedented success over the past five years, Vanguard Athletics looks to the next phase of commitment to the student-athlete and program excellence. VU submitted its application after an extensive two-year period of research and consideration of the opportunities for its athletics program and student athletes, whose mascot is the Lions.

“Making this shift in national athletic affiliation to the NCAA DII is attractive to Vanguard University due to our institutional desire to balance strong academics, Christ-centered character transformation, and community engagement,” said Vanguard University President Michael J. Beals. “With continued enrollment growth and tremendous success in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), both on and off the playing field, we are positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that NCAA DII membership provides, including our commitment to the holistic development of our student athletes. This transition is a testament to the excellence and progress of Vanguard Athletics.”

Vanguard will continue as a full member of the NAIA Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) for the upcoming 2023-24 season. Beginning in 2024-25 and through 2025-26, VU will compete as a member of the PacWest Conference. During this time, however, VU will not be eligible to participate in the NCAA DII postseason.

Assuming Vanguard meets all the requirements of the NCAA Membership Committee, the Lions will become full members of the NCAA DII and the PacWest Conference in the 2026-27 season, becoming postseason eligible at that time. VU is considering joining the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) for postseason play during the transitional years.

“Vanguard University Athletics believes that winning athletics is the result of a solid Christian education plus Christ-centered character development, emphasizing the values of competitive excellence, character development, collegiality, and teamwork in our student-athletes,” says Jeff Bussell, VU athletic director. “Our student body and alumni are looking forward to rekindling old rivalries and competing with regional Christian universities, while maintaining a quality athletics program that balances collegiate sports and academics.”

Member institutions of the PacWest Conference include: Academy of Art, Azusa Pacific University, Biola University, Concordia University Irvine, Dominican University of California, Fresno Pacific University, Holy Names University, Point Loma Nazarene University and Westmont College, as well as three Hawaii institutions: Chaminade University of Hawaii, University of Hawai'i Hilo and Hawai'i Pacific University. Like VU’s previous NAIA status, Division II is a scholarship-granting association where current and future student-athletes will be eligible for athletics-based financial aid.

Vanguard’s transition toward NCAA DII membership parallels the spring 2024 opening of the Freed Center for Leadership and Service — a 61,000-square-foot athletics and learning facility. The new headquarters of Vanguard Athletics and VU’s Kinesiology academic program, the Freed Center will house a 2,000-seat gymnasium, men’s and women’s locker rooms, weight and athletic training rooms, VU Athletics offices, as well as laboratories and classrooms.