D1 Hoops, For-Profit And Christian-Style

For-profit higher education has its first Division I athletics program.

Grand Canyon University on Tuesday announced that it has accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), an NCAA Division I conference. The publicly traded for-profit, which sports a growing, 6,500-student physical campus in Phoenix as well as an online enrollment of 42,000, will be the slowly reloading conference's sixth member when Grand Canyon begins competing in it next fall.

The university’s move to the big leagues has been in the works for years. Grand Canyon this year was the most successful Division II program. It spent $9.5 million on athletics last year, university officials said. The university lacks a football team, but has men’s and women’s basketball squads, which are probably the highest-profile of its 22 sports teams.

The WAC has been hit hard by the conference realignment that has buffeted college sports. Several of its higher-profile members have been lured to greener pastures in recent years, with several more to go in 2013. Grand Canyon will be among three new members, including California State University’s Bakersfield campus and Utah Valley University. Rounding out the conference are New Mexico State University, the University of Idaho and Seattle University.

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