Penn State-Behrend is the newest member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The conference announced it had granted membership to the Pennsylvania varsity men’s program on June 30 after six major programs withdrew from it in January. Behrend will join UCLA, USC, Stanford and Cal in the powerhouse conference on the men’s side.
The Division III Lions will not be required to participate in the conference’s regular season but will take part in its championship tournament in the fall. Behrend finished the 2015 season 0-22 as a member of the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
MPSF Executive Director Al Beaird lauded the “additional depth” provided by Penn State’s inclusion saying it will help keep the conference “on track for recruiting additional members in the near future.” The five-member federation is considered to be under threat unless it continues to attract new members.
Since 1992, the year it was founded, MPSF members have won all 24 NCAA men’s water polo championships titles. Long Beach State, Pepperdine, San Jose State, University of California Irvine, University of California Santa Barbara, and University of the Pacific departed the federation after widespread complaints about the difficulty in succeeding in the most challenging conference in varsity water polo.
The MPSF champion receives an automatic spot in the NCAA Championships; teams from the conference have also traditionally earned the one at-large bid granted to the six-team championship field. Automatic bids go to the MPSF, the CWPA, the Western Water Polo Association, and the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The six exiting programs switched to the Golden Coast Conference in January largely expecting to improve their chances at earning a bid to the final tournament. The NCAA has not yet granted the new conference automatic entry in the title tournament.