Who knew a little blue dot could mean so much?
Unassuming. Nondescript. Unassuming, but powerful. Nondescript by itself, but add the letters NCAA and it speaks volumes.
NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association – a league of its own, literally.
Simple. Blue. Dot. Game changer.
Anytime you can compete under the NCAA blue dot, it’s an honor. It’s a well-branded machine, basically, and it’s a real cool deal to be a part of it,
Said Crystal Rosenthal, head softball coach at Concordia University Irvine.
“It’s something much more recognizable for our students. You can already see that in the year and a half we’ve participated in the NCAA; by the destinations they go to and the people that they play.”
Playing under the auspices of the NCAA as a Division II school provides CUI student-athletes a better overall experience, including a higher caliber of competition. They also get to travel to play against schools in Hawaii, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Utah.
The NCAA is the governing body of athletic programs at more than 1,200 higher education institutions throughout the United States. CUI, which is in its final year of the three-year NCAA DII membership process, anticipates full membership in 2017-18. It will be the only DII institution in Orange County.
Rosenthal said that in addition to providing a stable conference, stronger recruiting ability, and stiffer competition, NCAA membership also brings instant academic credibility. She said the NCAA and CUI share the same goals.
NCAA academic standards are high and create a place where we can go out and find student-athletes who excel both on and off the court, on and off the field,
Rosenthal said. “It promotes the mission of the institution because we’re bringing in students who excel both in the classroom and on the field. It’s more in line with our goals as an institution and pushes us to become stronger moving into the future.”
Rosenthal, who’s been the head softball coach for nine years, is going into her 17th year of coaching at CUI. With a 380-89 record, she’s the winningest coach in the program’s history.
Rosenthal attributes the success of the program to the support she gets from CUI officials and administrators and her staff.
The school has made supporting their student-athletes a priority. In turn, my staff and I have worked extremely hard to build the program for the institution,” she said. “It’s a great fit with kids who work hard and do well in the classroom. Having tremendous student-athletes who are very talented has had made our job a lot easier.
Rosenthal’s goal is not only to help students develop as athletes but as people. She wants her students to leave Concordia better than they came.
“I try to be positive and focus on the journey, focus on the process of getting my kids better every day,” Rosenthal said. “I’m interested in their lives outside of the field and invest in them as people and, hopefully, they invest in me as a person as well, and we play a little bit of softball on the way.”
Rosenthal wants people to know,
I gave them everything I've got. I don’t hold anything back. I’m going to give you my best effort every day.
Outfielder Ryann Ferguson is a product of Rosenthal’s tutelage. The 20-year-old junior has a .400 batting average and 3.95 GPA. She was named a 2015-16 PacWest Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was also named Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Ferguson said she was recruited by Rosenthal while attending Troy High School, and she has “nothing but awesome things to say” about her coach.
“The biggest thing I respect about her is, obviously, she likes to win and is a competitive person, but she’s more concerned about how we leave her program. She wants us all to develop into better people and respectable young women,” Ferguson said, adding,
She’s there to coach us softball, but she knows there’s bigger and more important things in life.
Ferguson has played softball since she was 4 years old. However, she said neither academics nor athletics come easy to her.
“I’ve always had to work really hard at it. I do like to be perfect, which sometimes is a flaw, but at the same time, it really does make me work hard for what I want,” Ferguson said, adding she’s willing to work harder still for a NCAA DII school.
“When I think of going DII, it’s going to the next level,” she said. “You’re surrounded by more athletes, and more competition makes me work even harder. When I see people around me working really hard at what they do, it motivates me to work even harder.”
Speaking as both, becoming DII will make CUI more attractive to athletes and students in general, Ferguson said.
“It’s going to help us grow even more as a school,” she said. “I think it’s nice to be going into something new. It’s a different journey. There are different rules and regulations we all have to get used to. Being in a conference with different schools is really exciting.”
Ferguson’s life philosophy is to do everything for the glory of God, including playing softball.
I am a Christian; that has a lot to do with how I act and perform. I play softball to glorify God. That’s a big component of why I am the way I am,
Ferguson is majoring in sports science with plans of going into the accelerated nursing program. She hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and registered nurse license.