GNAC member Azusa Pacific discontinues football

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CWU athletics

Sean Bessette, Senior Reporter

Last month, GNAC member Azusa Pacific University (APU) ended its football program effective immediately after 55 years of competition in the NCAA and NAIA.

“You hate to see any program discontinue because it ultimately affects those student athletes, coaches and staff personnel,” CWU Director of Athletics Dennis Francois said. “For a lot of them, it’s the reason why they came to a university, whether it be athletics or academics, and when those [programs] get discontinued or dropped, it’s heartbreaking for those student athletes and coaches.”

According to an official release on athletics.apu.edu, one of the biggest reasons for the discontinuation of the program was the extensive travel necessary for APU to participate in all of their scheduled away games. 

In 2019, APU had to take air travel for all six of their away games. This made APU the only DII school that had to fly for all of their away games.

With APU ending its program, a large hole opens up in CWU’s schedule. There are now only three GNAC schools with football programs, including CWU, Western Oregon and Simon Fraser.

CWU athletics

One solution to this is a scheduling alliance between the Lone Star Conference (LSC) and the GNAC. LSC member institutions are located in the southwestern United States.

“The Lone Star Conference is definitely going to play a major part in us continuing to have a very competitive schedule and have that opportunity to push on with football at CWU,” Francois said.

This scheduling alliance means football will face schools that CWU has never faced before.

“I’ll be excited to play new teams that we haven’t faced before,” senior running back Michael Roots said.

While there is excitement for what the future brings, there’s also room to reminisce on some of the memorable moments between CWU and APU in recent history. 

“It was a great rivalry. Every single game was a barnburner. You knew you had to bring your ‘A’ game every time you went against them,” Fisk said.

The most recent matchup between CWU and APU resulted in a 27-24 victory for the Wildcats on Nov. 2, 2019. Roots rushed for 196 yards on 22 attempts and one TD on the evening.

Before discontinuing the program, APU won four division championships during their eight years in the GNAC, including a shared championship with CWU in 2018.

“It’s a blow to DII football on the west coast. We feel terrible for the players and the coaching staff of that program,” Fisk said. “Azusa had quality people surrounding their program and we had a mutual respect for one another.”