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WCC adds Pacific for 10-team league

After three decades of stability, the West Coast Conference has been busy the last few years.

The conference, which brought in BYU last season, announced Wednesday the addition of Pacific, effective July 1, 2013. Pacific, based in Stockton, Calif., was a founding member of the WCC (known then as the California Basketball Association) in 1952 before exiting in 1972. The Tigers have been competing in the Big West Conference

“Pacific brings a strong geographical rival with excellent on-campus facilities and a recent history of athletic success in sports that are priorities for the WCC,” commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said.

Pacific will boost WCC membership to 10. At nine teams with BYU, the conference faced scheduling hurdles that resulted in uneven travel, Monday basketball games and split weeks with one home game and one road game. Pepperdine men’s basketball, for example, made three separate trips to play the three Bay Area schools. Gonzaga finished the regular season by entertaining BYU on Thursday and visiting San Diego on Saturday.

“I do believe this year playing with nine teams it definitely triggered what I thought it would,” Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said. “It was going to be a very short period of time when people in the league said we need an even number, 8 or 10 or whatever it is, to make scheduling work, make it fair and make it more economical.

“This year’s schedule definitely got people’s attention and I do believe Jamie heard from a number of schools about it.”

The WCC will go to an 18-game conference basketball schedule in 2013. The conference tournament format will be adjusted, but that will be determined later. With BYU, the conference had an opening-round game between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds with the winner moving on to face the fifth seed.

With 10 teams, Roth anticipates a return to long-standing travel partners (Gonzaga/Portland, Loyola-Marymount/Pepperdine and pairing the four Bay Area schools). San Diego, which typically paired with a Bay Area school, would be BYU’s travel partner.

“That’s yet to be determined, but to me it makes sense to have the traditional travel partners,” Roth said.

Pacific is coming off an 11-19 season, the seventh losing campaign in men’s basketball coach Bob Thomason’s 24 years (three came in his first four seasons). The Tigers have won at least 20 games seven of the last 11 seasons and made the NCAA tournament in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Pacific played in the tournament in 2009 and 2010.

“We know they’re not there yet, but they aren’t joining for another year and they do have recent history where they went to three straight NCAAs,” Roth said. “With (athletic director) Ted Leland’s leadership, I do believe he’ll get them going.”

Pacific’s women’s basketball team was 18-14 last season, defeating Arizona State and losing to San Diego in the WNIT.

The Tigers will join the WCC in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s cross country, men’s golf, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball. Pacific will add men’s soccer in 2015, Leland said.

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