O’Boyle: Coach Of the Century

Balmore Ruano/Photograhy Intern

Much has changed in Irvine since the ’80s. Before the Anteater Recreation Center was built, students worked out at the UCI Athletics Complex. Before Charles Jock was the gem of the UC Irvine track program, there was former Olympian Ruth Wysocki. UCI track and field coach Vince O’Boyle is proud to have witnessed the school’s growth in his 30 years as an Anteater.


O’Boyle is the longest tenured coach in UCI’s athletics program.


“If you told me that I was going to be here for 30 years when I first walked through those doors, I never pictured that,” O’Boyle said. “When am I going to pull out of this? I don’t know. I’m healthy. There will be a day when I will know, but right now I don’t know.”


Before starting his three decade tenure with the Anteaters, O’Boyle was a counselor for physically challenged students at Citrus Community College in 1982. The assistant coach of UCI’s track team at the time, Larry Knuth, was about to step down and recommended that then-coach Kevin McNair hire O’Boyle. Knuth knew O’Boyle from his days at Pasadena City College, when O’Boyle was studying for his masters and running with the team. O’Boyle coached a group of middle-distance runners at PCC under Knuth’s watch.


“He called me and I said ‘Yeah, I probably will take it,’” O’Boyle said. “I took an interview with Linda Dempsey (former athletic director) and I got the job.”


He was drawn to Irvine because of the ocean and the school’s potential. He knew Irvine’s track program was strong after seeing athletes like Steve Scott emerge.


O’Boyle started to immerse himself in track since junior high school. He was not coached, but speed was on his side. When he went to a small Catholic private school for his high school education, he competed in both football and track. O’Boyle then transferred to Monrovia High School after his mother fell ill.


At Monrovia, his track coach told him: “Track will take you farther than football. Give up this football nonsense and start running.”


O’Boyle went to community college to complete his general education. He then transferred to Cal Poly Pomona to stay near his mother’s side.


Yet the decision to come to Cal Poly helped his running career. He placed second in a Division II cross country meet in 1968 and eighth place in a Division I meet in 1969. After completing his undergraduate education in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, he went on to earn a master’s in education at Azusa Pacific in 1973.


At UCI, O’Boyle has been named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year 20 times; he was also inducted to the Mt. SAC Relays Hall of Fame on April 14, 2010. He has coached UCI to 12 Big West Conference titles in women’s cross country while claiming seven league championships with the men’s program. He has also coached 13 NCAA All-Americans.


O’Boyle varies his training methods each season.


“There are certain things that I always stay by, but there are things I will always change.”


He focuses on the personalities of his runners and figures out the most effective way to train them. But in order to succeed, he must earn their trust.


Beyond athletics, O’Boyle wants to see his runners perform in school. He often stresses that the reason why the athletes are in school is because of education.


More than 300 of the athletes he has worked with were named Big West Conference Scholar-Athletes over the past 15 years.


“Yeah running is important, but ten years from now I want them to have that degree in their hands,” O’Boyle said. “Yeah, we like to win, but it’s a sad day when they graduate because all of a sudden they’re gone and you’ve built a relationship with them. But it’s important for me to see them graduate.”


This upcoming season could be one of the most exciting seasons O’Boyle. He has seen countless standouts and has even had the privilege of seeing one of his former athletes, Ruth Wysocki, compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics in the 800-meter event.


If 20 years ago, someone told him that there would be an Anteater much better than Wysocki, he would have had a hard time believing it. This season is Charles Jock’s final season with O’Boyle. O’Boyle pointed out that what makes Jock a different gem from Wysocki is that Wysocki didn’t make it to the national team until her late 20s, while Jock has been called to the World Championships while still in college.


O’Boyle and his assistant coaches have prepared Jock not just for his final college season, but for his ascension into the 2012 Summer Olympics as well.


“If you prepare properly, you’re going to do well,” Boyle said. “I think we prepared Jock well. If we haven’t done the right preparation, I would be nervous. I’m confident that we’ve done our homework.”


Seeing several alumni come back to help UCI out has made O’Boyle proud of the Anteater tradition.


“It’s refreshing to see coaches come back that were once student-athletes back in the day,” O’Boyle said. “It’s neat to see alumni give back to the university. That shows you that something about this place is very unique. You don’t see this very often.”