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UC Merced to join Western Water Polo Association

UC Merced to join Western Water Polo Association

The Western Water Polo Association is pleased to announce the addition of the University of California, Merced (UC Merced) to its men's and women's membership.

"On behalf of all the schools of the WWPA, we applaud UC Merced's intention for membership in NCAA Division II and welcome the Bobcats to the conference," said WWPA Commissioner Mike Reid. "UC Merced is an ideal fit for the WWPA, evidenced by its dedication to supporting student-athletes in their athletic and academic journeys, its competitive prowess and its geographic footprint within the WWPA West Region."

UC Merced announced its intention to apply for NCAA Division II membership in February 2024. With a successful application for NCAA Division II membership, UC Merced enters a minimum three-year transition period before earning NCAA active membership. 

The Bobcats will also be a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for the 2024-25 season; although UC Merced will appear on WWPA schedules that season, it will not compete in the WWPA Championship until 2025-26.

"We are excited to receive an invitation to join the WWPA. The conference has a history of supporting the growth of water polo and we are honored to become a member," said UC Merced Executive Director of Recreation and Athletics David Dunham. "We look forward to working with the conference as we grow our men's and women's water polo programs."

The WWPA is committed to assisting UC Merced during the application process. Following discussions and visits by representatives from various WWPA schools, the WWPA Men's and Women's Executive Councils voted unanimously to recommend that UC Merced be admitted to the conference upon its admission to the NCAA.

UC Merced will gain NCAA Division II active member status in the fall of 2027 as long as all benchmarks are met during the transition process, and be eligible to compete in the NCAA postseason during the 2027-28 academic year.

"It is so amazing to be a part of the growth of water polo at the collegiate level," said UC Merced Head Men's and Women's Water Polo Coach Johnny Bega. "The WWPA will be the perfect home for UC Merced men's and women's water polo. I am excited to get started and build our relationships with the WWPA coaches and staff. Go Bobcats!"

The Western Water Polo Association began sending teams to the National Collegiate Water Polo Championships in 1981 on the men's side and in 2001 on the women's side when the NCAA added it as a championship sport.

For the first time in its over 40-year history, the WWPA features all NCAA Division II institutions on both the men's and women's side. The WWPA has added five teams on the men's side in the last two years, while the women's association has added two institutions in the last three years.

UC Merced would provide the men's membership eight teams. It joins Biola, Concordia and Fresno Pacific in the West; and Gannon, McKendree, Mercyhurst and Salem in the East.

The Bobcats will give the women's conference nine teams. The Bobcats join Biola, Cal State East Bay, Cal State Monterey Bay, Fresno Pacific in the West; and Gannon, McKendree, Mercyhurst and Salem in the East.