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UC Irvine’s Al Irwin Academic Center opened to the public last Wednesday, Oct. 30 as a new resource for student athletes. Located in the lower level of Crawford Hall, the center is approximately 5,100 square feet, includes over 100 seats and a lounging area.

Courtesy of UCI Athletics
Courtesy of UCI Athletics

Student athletes are definitely looking forward to putting the new center to use, as it will provide numerous opportunities and resources for them.

“I think that it is definitely a major upgrade from those green trailers over there, that’s our old academic center right there,” fourth-year volleyball player Jeremy Dejno said as he pointed behind him.

“It’s nice to have a spot so close to where we train. We found support from students when we’ve had successes in the playoffs, so it’s growing and I think that gives the push for the funding,” he said. “[The funding] will start increasing as we continue to bring in recruits based on our facilities and [not] just our winning,” he continued.

The center will provide resources for student athletes including academic counseling, study strategy workshops, academic mentoring, tutoring opportunities and more. It will also offer school assessment and guidance, along with orientation for freshman and transfer student athletes. In addition, the academic center includes 24 computer stations and a printer lab.

“It’s a great facility and it’s going to be pretty cool, because, [since] I came here as a freshman, we’ve been in the trailers and it’s cool to see progress,” fourth-year volleyball player Travis Wolloson said. “This whole area is evolving and keeps getting nicer. It’s going to keep increasing our work ethic; we’ve been successful on our part so it’s cool to see the school growing too, the athletics, and the facilities,” he continued.

Present at the opening was Al Irwin himself, Chancellor Michael Drake, members of the media, students, athletes, family and friends.

The center is named after Al Irwin, UC Irvine’s first water polo and swim coach. Irwin spent 14 years, from 1965 to 1978, devoted to UCI. In ’65, Irwin was the head coach of the men’s water polo team. It was that year that UCI played its first intercollegiate athletic event. He was UCI’s swimming and diving coach who won the 1964 NCAA championships. Following in 1970, he was the assistant coach to the water polo team that won its first NCAA Division I championship.

Al Irwin then became UCI’s acting vice chairman for the Department of Physical Education and assistant director of Athletics until he retired in 1978. Irwin was a student athlete himself, playing college football for the University of Pacific. He then went on to coach high school football at Newport Harbor High School.

“I knew what was coming, but not this big,” Irwin said. “This is fantastic. My office used to be right at the window over there,” he said, pointing at the end of the room. “Computers, counselors, they could register, drop a class or change classes, it’s just wide open for them.”

Irwin is 95 years old and has been visiting UCI regularly. “We had nothing,” he said, describing his days apart of UCI Athletics. UCI has undoubtedly transformed “100 percent,” he said.

The Al Irwin Academic Center was a donation from The Newkirk Family, who have been generous supporters of UC Irvine and its athletics programs over “[Today is] one of the better days of my life,” Jim Newkirk laughed.

“[Al] is a historic part of my life; he was my football coach in high school, and now I’m his benefactor at UCI. [He] has been here as long as the building. I wanted to name it after him. I knew how much he stressed academics. He made sure you were passing your classes [and] studying,” Newkirk continued.

It is no doubt that the Al Irwin Academic Center will be put to great and effective use for student athletes throughout the years. The Anteaters will continue to shine not only on their courts, fields, tracks and in their pools, but also in their classrooms as well.

Shine on ’Eaters.

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