Little Rock joins Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal Poly in providing the Pac-12 with a sixth member in wrestling, beginning in the fall of 2019.
"This is a monumental day both for the Little Rock Athletic Department and our wrestling program," said Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque. "Today's announcement is further proof of our commitment to building a nationally competitive wrestling program. We are most appreciative for the support from the Pac-12 Council and conference officials as we look forward to competing this fall in one of the nation's premier conferences. Our membership in the Pac-12 will provide our wrestling program instant credibility and further strengthens the Little Rock Trojan brand.
"We are very excited and grateful to the Pac-12 for extending this invitation for a conference affiliation," said head coach Neil Erisman. "I'm incredibly thankful to the conference coaches and administration for believing in us and our vision for the future. We will be a great asset to the Pac-12 and I look forward to being able to compete out west with some of the top programs in the sport."
The Pac-12 Conference dropped from six members to five after Boise State discontinued its wrestling program following the 2017 season. While the NCAA requires a conference to have at least six active members that sponsor the applicable sport in order for it to be eligible for automatic qualification in the NCAA Championships, it does provide a two-year transition period to allow for a conference to secure a sixth member.
At its recent Pac-12 CEO meetings, the presidents and chancellors approved extending an invite to Little Rock to compete as an affiliate member in wrestling. Little Rock will enter its inaugural season in 2019-20 after becoming one of the newest NCAA Division I wrestling programs and the first in the state of Arkansas.
Little Rock announced the addition of wrestling as its 15th intercollegiate athletic program on March 17, 2018 prior to the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. Erisman was announced as the program's first head coach on June 20, 2018, and has spent the last 11 months building his roster to begin competing in the Trojans' inaugural season in 2019-20.
The Pac-12 Conference has sponsored wrestling for its membership since 1963. Arizona State captured the 1998 NCAA title, becoming the first and only team west of the Rocky Mountains to claim an NCAA title in wrestling. In addition, Pac-12 wrestlers have claimed 37 NCAA individual titles, most recently by Arizona State's Zahid Valencia who successfully defended his title at 174 pounds at this year's championships.
Erisman continues to put together the Trojans' inaugural schedule, which will begin in November. Home matches will be held at the Jack Stephens Center as season tickets are currently on sale by contacting (501) 569-3393. General admission seats are just $30 with limited mat side seating also available.