It’s true that not all of the 10 universities that comprise the West Coast Conference are, in fact, on the Pacific Coast. (Even with the geological volatility of the Pacific region, it likely will be some time before the residents of eastern Washington or central Utah will be hollering, “Surf’s up!”)

But it’s also true that the WCC has emerged as a force in 15 Division I intercollegiate sports, men’s and women’s, and that each can lay claim to an outstanding athletic tradition. Collectively, the WCC has produced 26 NCAA Division I individual or team champions. 

More importantly, each university can be proud of producing student-athletes who find joy in academic as well as athletic achievements, as exemplified by the record 1,480 student-athletes named to the 2019 WCC Commissioners’ Honor Roll.

As the fall 2019 athletic campaigns prepare to begin in late August and early September, Angelus News presents a brief history of the WCC, and a look at its current member institutions, the majority of them affiliated with the Catholic Church.

The history

The West Coast Conference was formed in 1952 to provide a convenient venue for five San Francisco Bay Area schools to compete in basketball: College of the Pacific, Saint Mary's College, University of San Francisco, San Jose State University and Santa Clara University. 

In 1956-57, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Fresno State joined the conference, and its name was changed to the West Coast Athletic Conference (WCAC).

Subsequent additions and departures include:

  • 1957-58: Fresno State departs.
  • 1965-66: UC Santa Barbara joins. 
  • 1969-70: UC Santa Barbara and San Jose State depart, replaced by Nevada-Reno and Nevada-Las Vegas.
  • 1971-72: Pacific departs, Seattle University joins.
  • 1975-76: UNLV departs.
  • 1977-78: University of Portland joins.
  • 1979-80: Nevada departs, Gonzaga and University of San Diego join. 
  • 1980-81: Seattle departs.
  • 1989: WCAC shortens its name to West Coast Conference.
  • 2011-12: Brigham Young University joins.
  • 2013-14: University of the Pacific joins.

The schools

  • Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles (Westchester), California. Founded 1865 (as St. Vincent’s College). Roman Catholic university, affiliated with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, and Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. Nickname: Lions. Colors: Crimson and Blue.
  • Pepperdine University, Malibu, California. Founded 1937 (as George Pepperdine College). Affiliated with the Church of Christ. Nickname: Waves. Colors: Blue and Orange.
  • Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. Founded 1851. Roman Catholic university, affiliated with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Nickname: Broncos. Colors: Red and White.
  • Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, California. Founded 1863.  Roman Catholic college, administered by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Nickname: Gaels. Colors: Red and Blue.
  • University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California. Founded 1855 (as St. Ignatius Academy). Roman Catholic university, affiliated with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Nickname: Dons. Colors: Green and Gold.
  • University of San Diego, San Diego, California. Founded 1949 (as San Diego College for Women). Roman Catholic university. Nickname: Toreros. Colors: Blue and White.
  • University of Portland, Portland, Oregon. Founded 1901. Roman Catholic university, affiliated with the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Nickname: Pilots. Colors: Purple and White.
  • Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington. Founded 1887. Roman Catholic university, affiliated with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Nicknames: Bulldogs, Zags. Colors: Navy Blue, White, Red.
  • University of the Pacific, Stockton, California. Founded 1851 (as California Wesleyan College). Private university. Nickname: Tigers. Colors: Orange and Black.
  • Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Founded 1875. Administered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Nickname: Cougars. Colors: Navy Blue and White.

Some information for this article was provided by the West Coast Conference Website


Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).

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