As UCI’s new director of intercollegiate athletics, Paula Smith becomes one of 40 female Division I athletic directors nationally and the second at UCI. Stacey King / UCI

Irvine, Calif., June 6, 2019 — After completing a national search, Chancellor Howard Gillman has appointed Paula Smith as director of intercollegiate athletics at the University of California, Irvine.

Smith has nearly 30 years of experience in college athletic administration, 14 of those at UCI. Twice UCI’s interim athletic director – first in 2007-08 and, most recently, since July 2018 – she has served as deputy director of intercollegiate athletics since 2012. Prior to that, Smith was executive associate athletic director (2008 to 2012), senior associate athletic director (2006 to 2008) and assistant athletic director for academic and student services (2000 to 2001).

She becomes one of 40 female Division I athletic directors nationally and the second at UCI, following Linda Dempsay (1977 to 1983), who was the country’s first female athletic director at an NCAA Division I school.

“It’s always gratifying when we conduct a national search for an important position and find that the best person for the job is already on campus,” Gillman said. “Paula Smith has played a vital role in our athletic success over the past years, and I have every confidence that in her new role she will lead the department and our student-athletes to even greater heights.”

Smith, who was associate athletics director at UC Riverside from 2001 to 2006, began her career at the Big West Conference office, rising from compliance intern to director of compliance to – for six years – assistant commissioner. Currently a member of the NCAA Division I Council and Competition Oversight Committee, she’s also active in campus entities such as the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Chancellor’s Advisory Council, and the Campus Ethics and Compliance Risk Committee.

A member of UCI Athletics’ senior management team, Smith provides administrative supervision of UCI’s athletic programs and is the university’s senior woman administrator to the NCAA and Big West Conference.

In addition to her UCI duties, she was selected to be on the NCAA National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Committee from 2013 to 2017. Over the past 25 years, she has served on several national committees.

“I am honored to be appointed by Chancellor Gillman to lead UCI Athletics,” Smith said. “UCI is a special place, and I am excited to work on behalf of its outstanding coaches, talented student-athletes and dedicated staff to continue building on our success and tradition of excellence.

“This university is rich with unlimited possibilities, and I’m fully committed to the welfare of student-athletes and staff and will support an environment that promotes excellence in academic and athletic performance, sportsmanship, diversity, equity and inclusion.”

A native of Alamogordo, New Mexico, she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing at New Mexico State University.

About UCI Athletics

UCI Athletics has enjoyed more than 50 years of success. Its teams have captured 28 national championships in nine sports, including four NCAA men’s volleyball titles in a seven-year span, capped by back-to-back crowns in 2012 and 2013. The men’s baseball team has twice played in the College World Series, and this year, the men’s basketball squad – which won the Big West Championship and a record 31 games – captured the school’s first NCAA Tournament victory.

Additionally, women’s water polo has won seven Big West Championships and made six NCAA appearances, while women’s cross country has captured 12 Big West titles and women’s golf has claimed five Big West titles and made three NCAA appearances. Overall, 15 of the 18 current UCI programs have snagged regular-season championships.

The UCI athletic narrative also features the Olympic Games. Nearly 40 student-athletes, three undergraduates and three graduate students have represented UCI on the Olympic stage.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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