Big West byes eliminated

UC Irvine men's basketball coach Russ Turner said recently that he had yet to exhale with any form of relaxation since being hired in early April.

And regardless of how well the Anteaters do in Turner's first season, they will not have any chance to relax with a bye in the Big West Conference Tournament.

The event, which moves this season from the Anaheim Convention Center to the Honda Center, March 10-12, will ditch the format that had awarded the top two regular-season finishers with byes into the semifinals.

Previously, the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds had first-round byes.

For the first time since 2003, the Big West will utilize a straight-bracket format, in which all eight teams will open in the quarterfinals, followed by semifinals the next day and the evening title game the day after that.

There had been some debate under the old bye format about just how beneficial not playing until the third day of the then-four-day tournament was. Winning four games in four days was, inarguably a more arduous road. But playing teams that had at least one tournament game under their belt in what was almost always their first game at the Anaheim Convention Center, prompted some to speculate that debuting in the quarterfinals or semifinals rendered higher-seeded teams ripe for an upset.

In the six seasons the bye format was utilized, two No. 1 seeds and three No. 2 seeds were defeated in the semifinals. Then-No. 2-seeded UCI was upset in the 2006 semifinals by then-No. 3 Long Beach State.

Only twice in the six seasons under the bye format, did the top two seeds meet in the tournament title game.

In the seven years previous to the initiation of the bye format, only once did a top-seeded team not make the final. And in none of those seven seasons, did either a No. 1- or No. 2-seeded team not play for the tournament crown and the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

The Anteaters, whose roster has improved markedly since Turner arrived, open the regular season Nov. 8 at Illinois, as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

UCI, which plays home exhibition games Nov. 2 and Nov. 5 against UC San Diego and Concordia, respectively, plays its first home game Nov. 19 against Navy.

Optimism runs rampant at this time of year for fall sports coaches preparing for their seasons, but UCI women's volleyball coach Paula Weishoff was, like the rest of the volleyball community, still mourning the loss of the end of the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals' beach tournament season.

The AVP announced last week it would not finish its season, due to a lack of sponsorship revenue.

With regular television exposure and media coverage opportunities, the AVP had been, in many ways, the face of the volleyball community. And at least one Anteaters standout, senior Kari Pestolesi, has long expressed a desire to compete on the AVP Tour when she completes her eligibility.

"That is so devastating for volleyball in the United States," Weishoff said of the AVP terminating its season. "I think it's just a shame. I hope some [sponsor] can pick it up and get it back and we can have the tour here."

Weishoff said the AVP's woes should not affect the arrival of sand volleyball as an NCAA sport, slated for the 2011-12 school year.

UCI men's water polo coach Marc Hunt got some unexpected news in the offseason, when it was learned that Tom Kruip, believed to have been a senior last season, has one more year of eligibility remaining.

Kruip was a third-team All-American last season when he led the Anteaters with 50 goals. He was recognized on senior day but will have the same opportunity this season.

Call him a senior emeritus.

Before the Orange Coast College football team's intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, Coach Mike Taylor had the officiating crew go over some rule changes for the upcoming season.

One new development is that a defender can faceguard a receiver, without playing the ball, as long as the defender does not make contact.

The officials also talked about regulations relating to uniforms and equipment. It is OK this season for players to have their kneepads above the knees, a practice that has become increasingly popular in recent years and could conceivably lead to the evolution of shorts, with pads underneath, rather than the traditional football pants.

Another new rule involved eye-black and eye-black strips, which must be completely black, excluding any writing or logos.

Ray Holley, the Pirates' star tailback last season, had a habit of putting inspirational initials on his eye black, including P.I.W., which was short for "Put in work."

Holley, who set a school single-season rushing record with 1,457 yards last season, when he produced 18 of the team's 20 rushing touchdowns and 97.2% of the team's rushing yards, is already wowing his coaches at Louisiana Tech, Taylor and OCC running backs coach Steve Fullmer said Saturday.

There is already significant buzz about Holley on the school's message boards.

Taylor said former OCC All-American and Corona del Mar High star Shaun Mohler, who completed his eligibility last season at Colorado, is training to become police officer with the LAPD.

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