UCI Finishes Second

The UC Irvine Athletics program announced on July 1 that the Anteaters earned second place in the Learfield Sports I-AAA Directors’ Cup. An annual national competition governed by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the Directors’ Cup has honored UCI in the top five for the past five years.

The Learfield Sports I-AAA Directors’ Cup is handed out to the best all-around athletics programs in the nation without a football team. Schools are evaluated based on postseason successes, resulting in a point scale applied to up to 20 sports — 10 men’s and 10 women’s. The award is a milestone and a symbol of what’s to come for Athletic Director Mike Izzi and his Anteaters.

“There is no ceiling on what can be accomplished in college athletics,” Izzi said of the prospects of improving upon strong performances from a number of the teams.

This year UCI featured several teams in the NCAA Tournament including women’s soccer, baseball, men’s tennis and women’s water polo. Sprinter Charles Jock added to the impressive year, placing second in the 800-meter sprint at the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

As a mid-major university, UCI has impressed across the board since Izzi took over as AD in December 2007. The Anteaters finished 78th overall of 284 Division I programs this year, with the closest Big West competitor being UC Santa Barbara in 112th.

“We consistently have teams advance to the NCAA postseason,” Izzi said. “This accomplishment demonstrates that UCI has become a serious contender on the national stage. Our student-athletes and coaches have set the bar high for their goals and they are committed to working as hard as possible to achieve those goals.”

UCI has now finished in second place twice in the Learfield Sports I-AAA Directors’ Cup, with the first occasion coming in 2009. Irvine also finished in first place in 2007, fifth place in 2008 and fourth in 2010.

As the top-ranked Big West program in 2011 for the fourth time in five years, UCI enters the 2011-12 athletic year with promise.

“Consistency at the national level is our ultimate goal,” Izzi said. “Five of our teams contributed this year in earning points at the NCAA postseason level for the Division I-AAA Directors’ Cup standings and we will continue to strive to send more teams to NCAA tournaments.  Our success in these standings shows that our teams can compete at the highest national level, even against universities from the ‘power’ conferences.”

Both water polo and soccer programs, the baseball team and men’s volleyball continue to inch closer to National Championship appearances, led by veteran coaches.

UCI is becoming a well-rounded athletics program. No longer are the Anteaters just creeping into the national spotlight via NCAA Tournament appearances in baseball and men’s volleyball, but Irvine has begun to send golfers, track stars and tennis players to national competitions. Those individuals range from alumnus John Chin’s left-handed golf swing in 2010 to Chris Kearney’s comeback on the tennis court this spring and to Jock’s constant pursuit of a National Championship on the track, and quite possibly, an Olympic medal in 2012. Simply put, the Anteater is on the rise.