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Program Raising Funds for Division I Program Despite a 0-10 Record : UC Irvine Volleyball Seeks NCAA Status

March 14, 1987|PAUL WAGER

Although the UC Irvine men's club volleyball team has failed to win in 10 matches this season, there is a lot of talk about it becoming a Division I program playing in the country's best conference.

What's wrong with this picture?

If you're school officials and Anteater boosters, nothing that a little money can't cure.

Rob Halvaks, assistant athletic director, says it will take about two years before volleyball reaches Division I status because of a lack of funds. He said it will cost about $19,000 a year to operate a program.

But he maintains that men's Division I volleyball is coming to UCI.

Through donations and fund-raisers such as February's exhibition match between the U.S. women's national volleyball team and China in the school's Bren Center, UCI has raised $45,000.

The program needs $57,000 to be considered for admission into the Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn.--one of the country's toughest conferences--said Bob Newcombe, WIVA commissioner.

Newcombe, a UCI professor who was instrumental in starting a volleyball program at the school nine years ago, said a team must show conference officials that it can fund itself for at least three years to gain entrance.

Because the program's boosters do not have any fund-raisers planned before a conference-imposed mid-April deadline, Halvaks said it is unlikely that Irvine will join the WIVA for the 1988 season.

"But we could become a Division I team and play an independent schedule," he said.

Irvine does not have to submit a list of varsity sports to National Collegiate Athletic Assn. officials until Sept. 1.

With $45,000, however, Irvine can remain a club team playing such schools as UCLA, USC and Pepperdine, all perennial top 10 teams.

Halvaks said it costs about $9,600 a year to run the club program: $4,000 for travel, $1,600 for equipment and supplies, $2,000 for official fees and $2,000 for the coach's salary.

By continuing as a club, Irvine can build a foundation before leaping into Division I play, said John Caine, athletic director.

"We are not going to make the move until we have a firm financial base," Caine said. "We didn't have one last time, and that is why we lost the team."

Caine is cautious because Irvine tried to play Division I volleyball in 1976 with a yearly budget of $4,500. The team was disbanded because of a lack of funds.

If Caine is fiscally cautious, he remains serious about a men's varsity volleyball team to complement the already established women's program.

Bill Ashen, a well-known high school coach, was hired to start the Anteater program. Ashen coached the Laguna Beach High School boys' team to three straight Southern Section 4-A championships from 1981 to 1983.

In his first season, UCI is 0-10 with four games left. The season ends April 17 against USC. Irvine playing WIVA teams is like Chapman's basketball team scheduling Big East opponents.

Ashen, 35, moonlights as a painter in order to supplement his volleyball income. But he thinks there will be a time when UCI will be a full-time job.

For now, however . . .

"There is the potential to do bigger and better things here," he said.

Perhaps, but for starters, Irvine does not offer scholarships. Though Orange County has one of the country's strongest high school boys' and girls' volleyball programs, the local recruiting competition is tough. The UCI women's team, for instance, has not been able to keep many of the best women away from such schools as UCLA, USC, Hawaii and Pepperdine.

"We know we can't get the blue-chip players to start with," Ashen said. "But there are so many quality players in Orange County that I'm hoping some of them will want to stay home, play at UCI and get a great education.

"Also, I'm hoping kids from Santa Barbara who will want to move away from home will consider UCI. What we will offer is a chance for guys to come in here and start right away."

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