Defending champs UC Irvine hire Kniffin to be next head coach

David Kniffin one year after leaving UC Irvine will now return to the school to become its next head coach.

The UC Irvine athletics department announced Monday morning that it hired Kniffin to be the head coach of the defending NCAA champions Anteaters.


“We are very excited to have David Kniffin back with the Anteater family,” athletic director Michael Izzi said in a statement released Monday. “David’s deep passion for UC Irvine and the men’s volleyball program is what ultimately made him the right choice to continue the success the program has achieved. The program is in good hands with David Kniffin.”

This will be Kniffin’s first college head coaching position, but the coach has deep ties to the UC Irvine program.

Kniffin was the Anteaters’ starting setter in 2002-03 and led the team to its first postseason victory in program history. After graduating, he also spent five years as an assistant coach under John Speraw and helped guide UC Irvine to the school’s first NCAA championships in 2007 and 2009.

Kniffin in the summer of 2011 resigned from his position at UC Irvine to become an assistant coach for the Illinois women’s volleyball team. The Illini with Kniffin on the sidelines last season reached the NCAA championship match.

“I believe in the experience we provide at UC Irvine,” Kniffin said in a statement. “Our student-athletes learn from world class professors, are trained by a great staff, and when the day is done, our athletes take the short drive home to Newport Beach and watch the sunset. … We have the coaches, departmental staff, and resources to sustain our Championship tradition and give these young men the career direction they should expect from a collegiate program.”

The UC Irvine head coaching position opened in June after Speraw resigned to become the head coach at UCLA — one month after guiding the Anteaters to their third NCAA title in the last six years.

Kniffin at the start of UC Irvine’s nationwide coaching search was considered one of the front-runners for the position and had strong support from alumni.

Several alumni during the search even created the website hirekniffin.com to endorse Kniffin and pettition the search committee to hire him. Among the alumni to endorse Kniffin through this website included former All-American outside attacker Carson Clark and former setter Ian Wynne.

“This is the only job in America that could have pulled me away from the culture and promising future of Illinois volleyball,” Kniffin said. “The confidence of the players, administration, alums, and the amplified investment of the University in the men’s volleyball program have been overwhelming. I am honored by the opportunity to carry the torch as we expand on our championship foundation.”