The university received notification from the NCAA on Friday that it has successfully completed the first year of candidacy in the association's Division II membership process and has been moved on to year two of the three-year process.
"We are excited to be advanced by the NCAA into Candidacy Year Two," said Athletic Driector Dennis Janzen. "The NCAA membership process has made the entire university better. Today's news affirms the commitment and efforts of everyone here at FPU."
The Sunbirds are set to begin their first full NCAA Division II schedule this year as members of the Pacific West Conference (PacWest), where they'll be immediately eligible for conference championships and awards. FPU will not be eligible for NCAA Division II postseason until it reaches full membership status in 2014-2015, but a partnership with the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) gives the Sunbirds a championship destination during the transition.
"We look forward to competing for championships in our first official year in the Pacific West Conference," said Janzen. "This is the beginning of a new era for everyone affiliated with the FPU community."
In addition to notifying FPU that it has successfully completed Candidacy Year 1, the NCAA also advanced former GSAC schools Azusa Pacific, California Baptist and Point Loma Nazarene to the next year of the process. APU and PLNU will join FPU in playing their first seasons in the PacWest Conference this fall. Fellow first-year PacWest member Holy Names was notified of its acceptance into year one of the process, after being denied last year.
The addition of APU, FPU, PLNU and HNU brings the conference to 14 teams, making it the largest NCAA Division II conference in the west.
The Sunbirds recently completed their final season in the NAIA, finishing in the top six of the NACDA Director's Cup standings for the fifth consecutive year. FPU won the national championship in women's swimming and diving, bringing its total number of team national titles up to 12.