Its Time to be Known as “UC Irvine!” Instead of “UC Irvine?”

When people hear the words Cal or UCLA, most think about the amazing education these two schools offer. For others, the thought of athletics comes to mind. Cal has an above average football program that sends a number of players into the NFL. UCLA’s football program is currently underachieving, but it does have a storied history. We mustn’t forget about UCLA Basketball — 88 consecutive wins and seven straight national championships from 1967-1973. Year in and year out, the Bruins send a vast number of athletes into the NFL, NBA and MLB.

Although UC Irvine academics can be seen in the same light as Cal and UCLA, UCI athletics does not get mentioned in the same breath as the other two UC counterparts. And rightfully so, as these two schools have been in the national spotlight longer and won more championships than the Anteaters.

However, times are changing and it’s time for UCI to be known as “UC Irvine!” and not “UC Irvine?” Over the past five years, the Anteaters have shown the ability to perform on the national stage. In that span, the ’Eaters have collected two national championships, multiple appearances in NCAA Tournaments and several upsets over more “athletic” and “bigger” schools.

Scott Juniper and the rest of the women’s soccer team is the latest program to prove its ability to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the nation. This past fall the Lady Anteaters wreaked havoc in the Big West by going undefeated in conference play. Although the women’s soccer team lost its conference championship, the ’Eaters received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

It was in the tournament where the Lady Anteaters proved that they were no pushovers. Although the ’Eaters’ run came crashing down against the Washington Huskies in the round of 16, they showed their ability to hang with the big boys. UCI made an epic comeback against Arizona State from the Pacific-10 Conference. The Pac-10 is a conference filled with schools that have amazing track records when it comes to athletics.

In the second round, the Lady Anteaters ousted the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Wake Forest competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a conference that features above average football programs and elite basketball teams. When it comes to women’s soccer, the ACC is king. The ACC houses 20 national championships, more than any other conference. The Demon Deacons captured the 2010 ACC title by defeating the defending national champs, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. This meant nothing to the Lady Anteaters, as they sent Wake Forest packing with a 2-0 victory.

Not to be overshadowed by the women’s soccer’s recent success is the men’s soccer team. The Anteaters stumbled to end their regular season and failed to make it to the post-season, but in the last two years they have had success in the NCAA Tournament.

In 2008, the ’Eaters ranked seventh in the nation and received a bid into the NCAA Tournament. After their first round bye, the Anteaters took down Cal Poly. Their tournament success came to a halt when they fell to St. John’s University. Last year, the men’s soccer team received another bid to the NCAA Tournament, but fell to Stanford in the first round.

John Speraw and his volleyball team put UCI Athletics in the news as they brought home the hardware in May of 2007. The Anteaters defeated Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne for their first of two championships.

Two years later, John Speraw’s dynasty struck again as it defeated Ohio State in the national semi-finals and USC in the championship game. Ohio State and USC are two schools with reputations that speak for themselves. Every year, both of these schools have multiple programs that vie for national titles.

The summer of 2007 belonged to the UCI baseball team. That year, the nation was introduced to the Anteater, as UCI seized collegiate baseball by the throat. Although their performance did not show it, UC Irvine reached the College World Series for the first time in school history.

In the CWS, the Anteaters not only displayed their poise, but also took down two national powerhouses. The ’Eaters defeated Arizona State twice, a school that has appeared in the CWS 19 times and won five national championships. The Anteaters then set their sights on Cal State Fullerton, a school that is no stranger to success, appearing in the CWS 14 times and winning four national titles. After defeating these two schools, the Anteaters could not quite capitalize on their dream when they lost to the eventual national champions in Oregon State.

Despite the fact that the Anteaters have had success in the NCAA Tournament and have collected two national championships, UCI does not garner the recognition it deserves. When the Anteaters step into the spotlight, many people are left wondering who the Anteaters are and where Irvine is located.

This may be because of the fact that UCI has no football team. Football is the breadwinner. Football is the moneymaker. Football is what puts Boise State and Texas Christian University on the map. Until UCI gets a football team, the successes of the men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and the baseball team will continue to be overlooked.

UCI does not have a football team and may not develop a program in the foreseeable future, so the next best thing is basketball. It is up to Coach Russell Turner to get the Anteaters into March Madness and pull off some stunning upsets. Until then, UCI will continue to be overshadowed and will continue to fail to arrive on the big-time collegiate athletic scene.