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Colleges: Speraw facing crossroads

April 20, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
  • Coach John Speraw has built a strong men's volleyball program at UC Irvine with NCAA titles in 2007 and 2009, and an additional Final Four trip in 2006.
Coach John Speraw has built a strong men's volleyball… (MARK DUSTIN )

When UC Irvine men's volleyball coach John Speraw approaches the Bren Events Center net at the conclusion of Saturday's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinal against UCLA, his steps will lead him toward a fork in the road.

Win or lose, Speraw will shake hands with UCLA Coach Al Scates, a legend who is retiring with 19 NCAA titles and 21 national collegiate crowns to show for his 50 seasons at the Bruins' helm.

And, win or lose, scores will wonder if the handshake will serve as a passing of the torch — the most successful coach in the history of the collegiate game perhaps handing over his program to the coach universally acclaimed as tops in today's profession.

It is difficult to imagine that UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, who already poached baseball coach John Savage from UCI, will not offer Speraw a chance to run the program in which he both played and coached.

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But whether Speraw will accept such an offer remains less clear.

Before this season, Speraw acknowledged that the prospect of his leaving UCI for UCLA, a notion as old as his 10-season tenure with the Anteaters, was more relevant than ever.

"I'm going to get asked about that a lot, because I've already been asked a lot," Speraw said of a possible return to Westwood, where he was part of two national championships as a player (1993 and 1995) and where he was a member of the coaching staff for seven seasons, including NCAA titles in 1996, 1998 and 2000. "I'm used to it by now."

Speraw said the question typically arises in the living rooms of recruits, dating back to his very first home visit as UCI head man in September of 2002. It was Speraw's preseason desire that the question of his future would not become a distraction to the run at the 2012 national crown made by both schools.

"It's flattering to be considered," Speraw said. "It was flattering the first time and it's still flattering. I thought back then, it was a crazy question. But I guess it's a little less crazy now."

Some might call Speraw crazy for not jumping at the chance to renew his relationship with his alma mater. There is little question that, if faced with the prospect of letters on the coffee table from UCLA and UCI, about the only reason a prospective recruit would pick up the UCI letter first would be his knowledge of Speraw.

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