UCI Athletics Take One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
ine athletic programs over the last year have been unprecedented and encouraging. Without a doubt, UCI is making itself known in the collegiate sports world.
NBA legend Bill Walton even mentioned in a USA men’s basketball game telecast this summer that UCI is a rising sports school, especially with regard to baseball and volleyball.
Unfortunately, more could be done to take the sports programs to the next level.
The UCI baseball team reached the College World Series for the first time in school history under the new format. In Omaha, our lovely Anteater won some giggles but, more importantly, followers across the nation.
The administration has done what it can to show its commitment to the baseball program from the get-go. The program was resurrected in 2002 by a student vote that called for a tuition increase for a new baseball program after a 10-year hiatus. In response, the school immediately set out to make the team a legitimate contender, pouring millions of dollars into Anteater Ballpark renovations and a state-of the-art-clubhouse.
The tools and facilities are there, but there is no coach to lead the program. Coach Dave Serrano left to accept the head coaching position at cross-town rival Cal State Fullerton. The news came as a shock to everyone who was following the story, but it is tough to be angry at Serrano. After all he has done for the program, it’s easy to understand why he’d take a job that was more prestigious and perhaps fiscally better.
With the resignation of Athletic Director Bob Chichester, the athletics department has taken a bit of a hit. A replacement has yet to be hired, and the long process has stymied some progress in department.
‘Stability of the athletic department had a lot to do with my decision. I have fond memories of UC Irvine, but couldn’t look into a crystal ball and come to a conclusion about the direction of the athletic department,’ Serrano told Rivals.com.
This type of concern ought to coaches and prospective ones as well.
Coach John Speraw, who is coach of the men’s volleyball team, which won the NCAA title last year, has deeper roots in the UCLA program than does Serrano in CSU Fullerton. His contract ends after this next season, and we may lose another top coach to another more dedicated athletic program.
It’s encouraging to hear that a nationwide search for our new baseball coach is being conducted. But perhaps we wouldn’t have lost our highly coveted coach had UCI hired an athletic director and showed commitment to the sports program in general.
UCI does not have the rich traditions and history that schools such as University of Southern California, UCLA and Stanford have established. These schools have both rich academics and competitive athletic institutions.
UCI is known for its advances in academics and is slowly making steps in athletics. If the school puts some more money and effort into the athletic programs at UCI we, too, can be put in that company.
Our athletes and coaches have brought us a multitude of accolades this past year; it’s essential that a structure is implemented that aims toward maintaining and nurturing our promising sports teams.
Former Sports Editor Bhavik Patel did an investigative piece on the budget and salary cuts of most of the athletic teams. Speraw’s champion volleyball team saw cuts in its budget even after a record year. Our teams should be rewarded for their successes, not hindered.
UCI has raised record amounts of funds. Over Chancellor Drake’s tenure, UCI raised over $120 million just this last year. The school has the funds necessary to take the programs to the next level.
The school only needs to help build the foundation for these teams and, once these teams start excelling, they will be self sustaining like all of the other major athletic departments across the country.
This in turn will increase publicity for the school and attract the best students and athletes to one of California’s best-kept-secret institutions.
The Ivory Coast ended a civil war to watch the country’s team compete in the soccer World Cup in Germany. Imagine what a competitive sports program can do to a campus that some believe to be unfortunately divided in its own right.