UCI Gets No Love

On Dec. 23, Scott M. Reid covered the UCLA-UC Irvine basketball game much like any mainstream media outlet — from UCLA’s perspective. The only problem: Reid was writing for the Orange County Register.

To some, this might not be a big deal. It’s just basketball, one might say. But in a world where American universities earn as much if not more publicity for their athletics than their academics, this slight from the OC Register is just a microcosm of the lack of publicity UCI receives. In short, we Anteaters get no respect in Irvine or the larger Orange County community.

With all due respect to the Daily Pilot in Newport Beach (which does a fine job of covering UCI athletics), the Register skimping on Orange County colleges leaves UCI and Cal State Fullerton greatly disadvantaged. While UCLA and USC both have their own “blog” pages on ocregister.com, Fullerton and UCI are merely lumped into a “colleges” section next to articles about the Rose Bowl and UConn women’s basketball. UCI and CSUF should be focal points for the OC Register, or at the very least, they should get the same coverage as USC and UCLA.

Having “special to the Register” freelancers are at least better than Associated Press file articles, but not the same as a true hometown beat. Even Reid, as a Register staff member, mistakenly calls UCI guard Mike Wilder “Chris Wilder” in the article — an example of his unfamiliarity with the Anteaters. It is understandable to try and cater to the larger Bruin and Trojan fan base, but the Los Angeles Times, as well as national media, already does that to an extensive degree. By tagging along with the Times, the Register staff rehashes the same old stuff while missing out on the action in their own backyard. In effect, the Register is admitting that anything their own city has to offer is inferior to what Los Angeles offers, so why don’t we just pretend that the LA teams play in Orange County as well? News flash: UCI and CSUF are Division I programs too.

It would be ignorant not to mention the sad decline of newspapers and large-scale downsizing that all print media has faced in recent years. As a result of fewer writers and less pages, the Register had to cut away areas of coverage. They chose to cut the areas that they thought the least amount of people would miss. This speaks volumes about the lack of pride and awareness OC inhabitants have for their local NCAA teams. Many people are transplants to the area and root for other teams. Many others are merely bandwagoners without enough strength to stick to the small-time programs mired away from the spotlight. However, if the Register caters to their audience in this way, there will never be that coverage necessary for fans that are actually open to giving the Anteaters a chance.

This lack of exposure goes beyond the newspapers. Stores like Lids and Finish Line at the Irvine Spectrum mall are well stocked in hats and sweaters of just about every team except UC Irvine. Lids usually has one UCI hat tucked away somewhere. Recently, in the aforementioned Finish Line, a front display selling collegiate sweaters included UCLA, USC, Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, and even faraway schools such as Florida, Notre Dame and North Carolina were all represented. No UCI. Embarrassing.

Merchandising and name recognition are subtle things with a hard-to-measure impact on a school’s success. Some may think it’s not a big deal, that as long as UCI keeps its strong academics, all will be well. But the royalties and revenues of UCLA, whose brand has found its way to international markets, has an unlimited benefit to that campus. Specialty boutiques and upper-class stores in China are selling UCLA brand clothes, much like Nike or Polo. According to the Daily Bruin, this goes beyond mere hoodies or T-shirts; we’re talking high quality fashion — blazers and button-downs. With astounding name recognition and popularity like that, UCLA builds upon its empire with an international stamp.

Meanwhile, UCI is left in the dust. There is only so much publicity a new law school or successful scientific research will achieve. Mock trials and scientific journals are not broadcast to a national audience. The average American is going to be able to name that famous UCLA quarterback (Troy Aikman) or center (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) before they know the UCLA alum Nobel laureate in chemistry (Richard Heck).

Sadly, this article represents a somewhat hopeless footnote to the establishment. UCI is a “new university” after all, and the Anteater may never equal the Bruin in status. The rich will get richer, as the UCI graduates trained not to care about their athletics will just perpetuate the vicious cycle.

But the OC Register could at least do their little part in representing their own territory, and take into account their newspaper namesake. That much would be appreciated.

David Gao is a fourth-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at dmgao@uci.edu.