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UC Irvine Notebook / John Weyler : Football Will Get a Toehold--If Students Agree to Pay the Bills

By the year 2000, UC Irvine’s enrollment is projected to be about 25,000, getting up there close to big brother UCLA, the school the folks at Irvine like to use as a role model.

They want Irvine to join UCLA as a flagship in the UC system--with all the trappings: A first-rate academic reputation, a wealth of the country’s best professors, alumni that take up a lot of space in Who’s Who, a No. 1 football team . . .

A football team? That’s right.

The inevitable push to bring football to UC Irvine is under way. In fact, don’t be surprised if the Irvine students, who probably will have the chance to make the choice in January, pass a referendum that will make football a reality by 1990. One sampling last year showed 81% of the students in favor of charging themselves a quarterly fee to pay for it.

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One student who’s behind the football push is A.J. Wiedhof, the Associated Students of UC Irvine athletics and football commissioner (that’s really his title), who is a member of Chancellor Jack Peltason’s advisory committee that is studying the possibility of Anteater football.

“When the school was first opened, they started with a very small sports budget and concentrated on locally popular sports like tennis and water polo,” Wiedhof said. “They thought football would come as the school grew. For the last 22 years, there’s been talk about how football would get started in ‘5 more years,’ but it was continually pushed off.

“Well, a group of students have decided it’s time to do it now. The UC system has changed. It used to be that UC would build a facility and pay for it. From now on, the students will have to pay. So why not get started now when it costs less?”

Sounds reasonable. But is it feasible?

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Rob Halvaks, senior associate athletic director, thinks it is--as long as the students agree to assess themselves the $12-per-quarter fee and are willing to be satisfied with starting on a small scale.

“The fee would cover the annual operating cost of a Division III football team,” said Halvaks, “with some funding for a facility that would house locker and weight rooms, coaches offices and meeting rooms.”

Initially, the team would play off campus--probably at Irvine High School or Newport Harbor High’s Davidson Field. It would practice on campus on a seldom-used grass field, located between the track stadium and the baseball stadium, which is now the site of two Little League fields and the hammer-throw area. The coaching and locker facility would be constructed on an adjacent dirt lot.

Not exactly Bruinesque surroundings, but a start.

“We’re already nationally known for our academics,” Wiedhof said. “A football team would add tradition and spirit to our campus. And it would provide the missing ingredient for the whole college experience that UCI students don’t have.”

This time, the students who do the voting will do their share of the paying, if the referendum passes.

A student fee to fund the construction of the Bren Center was voted into existence in 1982, but the first fees weren’t assessed until the winter quarter of 1987 when the facility opened. Few of the students who originally voted on the measure had to pay.

“We definitely don’t want another Bren situation,” Wiedhof said. “We want student involvement. We’ll be voting in 1989 and enjoying football in 1990.”

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A Comment: Paying for a football team and supporting it are two different matters. Just ask Cal State Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy or Cal State Long Beach Coach Larry Reisbig what Southern California students usually do on Saturday afternoons in the fall when it’s 80 degrees.

(Hint: It involves beach towels and Boogie boards, not pompons).

Wiedhof is talking about the Irvine football program moving up to Division II in 2 years and Division I in the not-so-distant future, but Halvaks is taking more of a wait-and-see attitude.

“The Division I experience at Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State may not have been very positive,” he said, “and that’s why it’s advisable we guard our expectations and see how the students and community react.”

The Irvine students might get football, but if winning football is all they’re interested in, patience will be a byword.

The much-ballyhooed “Anteater Basketball Bash,” Irvine’s season-opening practice at midnight last Friday, was a roaring success. An estimated 2,000 fans showed up for the scrimmage and dunking contest.

“This is the most students we’ve ever had in the Bren for a basketball event,” said a fairly beaming Chuck Harris, Irvine’s sports marketing director. “We only sold 1,800 student tickets for the (Nevada) Las Vegas game last year.”

There was no official crowd count, of course, but the 2,000 estimate appeared fairly accurate. And--by Anteater basketball standards, anyway--that’s a coup . Now the only question is whether this student enthusiasm will carry over into the season.

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After all, only 1,507 people showed up for a real game against New Mexico State last season.

Senior Kevin Floyd, who will be moved from point guard to a wing position--either off guard or small forward--to make room for transfer Rod Palmer, said he doesn’t mind the switch . . . too much.

“Coach (Bill Mulligan) is looking for me to display some leadership and put the ball in the hole,” Floyd said. “It’s not like he’s taking the ball away from me. It doesn’t really hurt, but it does give me a little twist.”

Floyd thinks his future in professional basketball will be as a point guard, though, and he doesn’t want his ballhandling abilities to diminish.

“I like having the ball,” he said. “And I’ve got to keep the guard skills up so the big boys don’t think I can’t dribble.”

Anteater Notes

The Anteaters have seen themselves identified on marquees as “UC Irving"--and worse--over the years, and the Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome won’t die easy. Coach Bill Mulligan ordered new white home uniforms from a major U.S. sporting goods firm last April and they finally arrived. Emblazoned across the chest in bold letters was “UNIC.” UNIC? “Don’t ask me,” Mulligan said, shaking his head in disgust. . . . Just how rigorous was the conditioning program Mulligan and Co. established so the Anteaters will be fit to implement the new fullcourt press defense/full-tilt running offense game plan? Etop Udo-Ema, a freshman from Phoenix, says he’s done more running the past month than he did playing three sports for 4 years at Chaparral High School. “Some days, we had them running 42 consecutive 100-yard dashes,” Mulligan said. “The players are relieved that practice has started because once in a while they get to stand around when we’re teaching something.” . . . Troy Whiteto, a 6-foot 2-inch junior transfer from Santa Monica College, edged 6-7 freshman Elgin Rogers, from Horace Mann High School in Gary, Ind., to win the dunking contest Friday night.

Irvine sailors won three of the first four races at the Pacific Coast Single-handed Championships at Richardson Bay near Sausalito. Freshman Randy Lake was first, sophomore Niki Adamson was second and junior James Malm was fourth as the Anteaters won 9 of 10 races. Lake and Adamson qualify for the national single-handed championships at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Nov. 12-13. . . . Senior middle blocker Kris Roberts has become Irvine’s career leader in attack attempts (2,180), solo blocks (251) and kills (892). . . . Junior Courtney Weichsel has been selected to play singles in the Riviera All-American tennis tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades starting Oct. 25. . . . Cross-country Coach Vince O’Boyle on his teams’ showings in the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Invitational where the men’s team finished eighth and the women were 10th: “Those were the worst performances I have seen by UCI teams in my 7 years here.”


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