It’s a new year and a new season. Whether you are a freshman, a transfer or even a returning student, you might be picking up this newspaper for the first time. Many of us complain about the lack of excitement and things to do on this campus and in this city. Well, here I am. And here I am to make the case for UC Irvine Athletics.
Sure we don’t have the same athletic reputation as those other two UCs (Berkley and UCLA), but just because we don’t see our school on SportsCenter does not mean we can dismiss the fact that UCI Athletics is worth our attention.
Here is a list of reasons why you should follow and support your fellow students and athletic representatives. You may enjoy yourself while you are at it.
We Are Legit. Despite the fact that we don’t have a football team or a powerhouse basketball program, UCI athletes compete at the highest level and with success.
Two years ago, UCI received recognition for having the Division 1 AAA athletic program of the year. The award is given to those schools that don’t have a football program. Our golf teams consistently win the Big West and the men’s team recorded an impressive finish at the NCAA Championships last season. Women’s soccer broke out last season, and the men’s soccer team is off to a blazing start this season. The men’s basketball team made it to the Big West Tournament title, and could do so again with an impressive incoming class. The women’s volleyball team is a step away from the top in the conference, and under Coach John Speraw, the men’s volleyball program is respected by all.
There are countless other success stories, but the most notable one brings me to my next point.
Baseball is Now Our Thing. Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano built our program in his short stay here. He took us to the College World Series and had us excited for what was brewing in Anteater Stadium. Then he left, stabbing us all in the back and washed the progress away (to quote Usher).
The administration didn’t back down and brought in legendary college baseball coach Mike Gillespie to take over from where Serrano left off. Gillespie and the tenacious returning Anteaters were three outs away from another trip to Omaha (the site of the College World Series). Now, the program seems to be stable again, and the excitement is back. With almost all of the offense returning and two stud starters in juniors Daniel Bibona and Christian Bergman, Gillespie looks to field another solid team. And finally we have a real sports rival. I hate Cal State Fullerton. Catch a game between these two teams and you will feel it too.
Completely Insane Anteaters- So you’ve been to a USC or Cal football game and seen their crazy student section. You want that feeling, but you are at UCI. Does UCI even have sports?
That crazy student section you are looking for is right here, and it’s called CIA. These are the Anteaters who are the truest of sports fans. They go crazy for their team and their school no matter what. During a losing season you will still find the CIA cheering. If an Anteater team is breaking down, CIA is still cheering. Even when there are only a handful of CIA members at an event, CIA is still cheering.
If you don’t like the Anteater as our mascot, drop the hatred. The “silly” mascot has brought our school publicity. Sure people laugh at it, but at least we are unique and not like some bear (though the Anteater is a distant cousin of the bear).
Still not convinced? Let me provide a personal anecdote. I was in the Stanford student section at Maples Pavilion during a men’s basketball game against Oregon last year and I witnessed something pathetic.
The Stanford student section was rowdy, offensive and standing throughout the entire game. How is that pathetic?
What was pathetic was that a bunch of smelly — and it did get smelly in that pit — nerds could boast some of the most loyal fans in the nation, and here at UCI we had nothing. I was wrong. Fast forward to the Big West Tournament title game. For the first time, I witnessed the Anteater faithful showing up in the numbers I had dreamed of and rooting against those hated Titans as violently as ever.
Let’s make that happen more often.
Zot Dogs > Student Center Food Court- You can get these at almost any Anteater Athletic event and man are they’re amazing! They are seriously the best hot dogs you can have around town. I love Dodger dogs and I will go ahead and say that Zot dogs trump them.
I always tell myself not to spend any money when I am covering a game, but I always seem to find myself adorning a Zot dog with ketchup, mayo and mustard.
Get one, even two or three, and then lather it with any condiment you please. I dare you.
Anteater Athletes May Be “No-Names” Now…
As evidenced by the success by recent alumni, UCI should begin exporting athletes to the professional ranks.
The success of an athletic program is measured by two things: championships and professional talent. Brad Evans ’06 is now a starter on the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer (MLS) and has recorded four goals and two assists in the season.
The Anteaters could have two baseball players in the Major Leagues as soon as next year. Justin Cassel ’06, brother of New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, has been one of the most solid arms in the Chicago White Sox farm system. In Double A this past season, Cassel was 10-4 with a 3.11 earned run average.
The other 2009 major league hopeful is Bryan Petersen ’07. Petersen was drafted into the Florida Marlins farm system as an outfielder. The 2006 UCI College World Series participant has been tearing it up in the minors. Petersen batted .293 with 23 home runs as he split time in Class A and Double A ball.
Blair Erickson ’07 and Scott Gorgen ’08 are two other pitchers who have been pitching well for their teams in the minor leagues and who look to have a major league future.
Get ready Anteaters, because soon you will be bragging about going to school with these athletes. Don’t miss out on seeing them play right here at UCI.