Big West set to institute three tournaments by 2025

Second baseman Alexis Garcia bats for CSUN softball during a game against the Oregon Ducks at Matador Diamond on Feb. 11, 2022, in Northridge, Calif.

Lyle Yoergler, Staff Writer

For decades, Big West Conference star players went through their college careers and represented their schools at the highest level without getting the chance to show what they could do in a conference tournament. This will all change as the Big West has motioned to implement a postseason competition for softball, baseball and women’s volleyball by 2025. This is big news for CSUN’s programs, who have long awaited the chance to show their untapped potential in a conference tournament.

To compensate for the absence of a tournament, the NCAA has a system to determine who makes the national competition. Rating percentage index, also known as RPI, is used by the NCAA across all sports and allows the association to rank teams based on strength of schedule, win-loss percentage and non-conference winning percentage.

Baseball head coach Eddie Cornejo believes that Big West schools are at a disadvantage due to the lack of Power Five teams in the area, which lowers their strength of schedule.

“We’re already at a disadvantage being at a mid-major in Southern California because we beat up on each other,” Cornejo said. “Mid-majors in the Southeast play so many SEC schools with really good RPI ratings, and we have fewer Division I schools within a 300-mile radius than they do in the East, so regionally we’re at a disadvantage. If the Big West overall RPI puts us in a position where we continue to be at a disadvantage, our goal is to win out.”

CSUN baseball has not seen the likes of the NCAA College World Series since 2002, but is coming off a .567 conference winning percentage, the program’s highest since that year. With a new coaching staff and a solid roster foundation, there is plenty of optimism in CSUN’s goal of winning the conference in time for the 2025 inaugural Big West championships.

Following suit of the Pac-12, which held its inaugural baseball tournament in 2022, the board of 11 CEOs from Big West institutions officially approved the Big West tournament, ensuring a postseason championship in 2025. The presumed format for both softball and baseball, though not yet announced, could follow past Big West Conference baseball tournaments held in 1985, 1997 and 1998. The format had six of the eight teams that were in the conference compete in a double-elimination tournament. The location has yet to be determined.

For women’s volleyball, the inaugural tournament will be played at Long Beach State in the fall of 2023. Six teams will be invited. CSUN women’s volleyball last finished in the top six in 2019, but the presence of a tournament at the end of the season could be a motivating factor that pushes them back into the top half of the standings.

“I think that playing in front of a lot of people and playing under pressure and playing for something that you can further yourself in, it makes the game more exciting,” said Emily Sparks, a setter on the women’s volleyball team. “If you win, the win means more than just winning on a small stage and not even getting a chance to play in a conference tournament. Anything can happen in a conference tournament.”

The Big West finally having conference tournaments in baseball, softball and women’s volleyball will be extremely important in showcasing its elite player talent, which might not get recognized with the absence of postseason play. Adding this tournament will not only help Big West players reach the national spotlight, but also boost recognition of the Big West Conference by adding the win-or-go-home element that many players and coaches enjoy playing in.