Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday In The... Office?

Ryan Burns, the assistant athletics communications director at UC Davis and my officemate, works tirelessly in the desk to my left. Now that football season has begun, Ryan will likely be on the job on most Saturdays and Sundays for the next 11-plus weeks, but this is more activity than usual. With the 2011 opener taking place on a Thursday, today is effectively a Monday in the weekly routine leading up to a game. If he gets too disoriented with this odd schedule, Ryan will mistakenly set his DVR to record Modern Family on Monday, thinking it's Wednesday.

What am I doing here? UC Davis volleyball won its morning match against UNLV (3-0 sweep) and takes on tournament host Northern Colorado this evening, so I figured I would use the time between to play catch-up in the office. Consider this post a break from the usual routine of pecking away at media guides in order to furnish some loose thoughts from the Aggie backstage.

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Steve Megargee of wrote a nice article on first-year men's basketball coach Jim Les, focusing on the experience of coaching his son Tyler. Given that Jim played seven years in the NBA and enjoyed coaching success at the professional and D-I collegiate levels, someone asked me if Tyler Les is the Aggie with the most famous father in school history. I don't think Tyler is the Aggie basketball player with the most famous father in the last decade: Justin Stearns (2000-05) is the son of John Stearns, a four-time MLB All-Star.

So who gets that title? Of all the men and women who have played an intercollegiate sport at UC Davis, who has the most famous parent?

I have to give that nod to UC Davis football alum Bob Warren. His father was Earl Warren, the 14th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the previous governor of California. Bob enrolled at UC Davis in 1954, months after his dad handed down the unanimous decision in a case called Brown vs. Board Of Education. Bob continues to volunteer on the "chain gang" at Aggie football games. With that DNA, I assume he doesn't get many disputes. I also can't imagine I'll get many for this choice, either.

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As of this Saturday afternoon, the outer bands of Hurricane Irene have clipped the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Of course, I offer my well wishes for safety to those living in those areas, and the states to the north that continue to brace themselves.

In terms of an Aggie connection, I'm curious to see if the field hockey team bangs its trip (or parts of it) to New England this upcoming week. UC Davis is slated to face Providence (Monday), Holy Cross (Wednesday) and Bryant (Friday). According to the NOAA website, Irene will be over the Gulf of St. Lawrence by Monday, but already the system has grounded more than 1,000 flights this weekend. Keep your eyes posted on the UC Davis site for updates as the weather affects the Aggies' travel plans.

Update 9 p.m. on August 27: indeed, the field hockey trip has been postponed, with new games, dates and times to be announced shortly. So again, keep an eye on the team's home page here.

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Women's soccer launches the 2011-12 Causeway Cup race with Sunday's game against the Hornets (1 p.m. at Aggie Soccer Stadium). The full schedule and scoreboard for the eighth-annual UC Davis-Sac State competition will not go up for a while as teams continue to iron out their schedules. However, we do know many of the matchups for the remainder of this calendar year (with sites in parentheses). At the very least, mark your calendars -- or your PDA equivalent -- with the following:

Aug. 28 - Women's Soccer (Davis)
Sept. 13 - Women's Volleyball (Sacramento)
Sept. 23 - Men's Soccer (Davis)
Sept. 24 - Men's/Women's Cross Country (Stanford)
Nov. 19 - Football (Sacramento)
Nov. 22 - Men's Basketball (Davis)
Dec. 4 - Women's Basketball (Davis)

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Finally, two heartfelt albeit belated congratulations to recent Aggie basketball star Mark Payne. The two-time All-Big West Conference honoree signed a professional contract with CB Granada, a member of Adecco Oro of the Liga Española de Baloncesto. Payne posted the good news on his Facebook wall about a week ago, but in my profession, we generally look for official statements before saying anything. A headline reading "Mark Payne se une al proyecto del CB Granada" on the team's website solidified it for me.

Two congrats, you ask?

Yes, Payne's signing with pro ball came less than a month after his engagement to volleyball standout Melanie Adams. As I've said elsewhere, I had no interest in the Royal Wedding last spring, but I would watch every minute of this one if it ever were to take the airwaves -- Mark and Mel truly are two of my all-time favorite Aggies.

Yeah, yeah... I'm generally a junkie for knowing the stats and school records around here. But in the end, I'm all about the rings.

- Mark Honbo, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

 A potpourri of activity from throughout UC Davis Athletics:

• Creative fun, some good-natured men's soccer players and Aggie Stadium were the ingredients Monday for making a promo video for the team. We can't divulge what was produced quite yet - it should debut on the and our YouTube channel later Tuesday - but suffice to say we had a lot of fun pretending to be actors and directors. I mean, at one point I even had to do a double-take when Assistant Athletics Communications Director Mark Honbo - our sound man whose sound we didn't end up needing - said "Give me a 'roll sound' before you start." Roll sound? I wasn't even yelling "Action!" half the time, instead opting for a rather subdued "Go." Now, if he had said "Roll Tide" I would've had a better chance of understanding him.

The players (Tommy Sirgusa, Alex Henry, Ethan Shawlee, Dan Reese, Lance Patterson) were great and special thanks to Asst. A.D. Scott Brayton for stepping in after one of our "stars" was a no-show for non-contractual reasons. Hopefully the video will bring some attention to the men's program which has an early-season showdown with No. 2 UCLA on Sept. 4 at Aggie Soccer Field.

If you go, tell 'em the video sent you.

BTW, we're working on more videos for other teams. Those of us in the business refer to it as "pre-production.".... or maybe it's "Roll Tide."

• With cross country and men's water polo reporting for practice over the past few days, we now have eight of our 23 teams up and running. Hickey Gym has gone from "library-quiet" to "where did all the primo parking go?" in just a matter of a few weeks. But it's a good thing because it means the 2011-12 year is underway and lots of chances to get out and support the Aggies.

One way you can do that is through desktop wallpaper for your computer. Just go here on the athletics website and download background wallpaper for Aggie football, field hockey, volleyball, men's soccer and women's soccer. We'll be adding more sports as they get produced. 

• For those of you old enough to remember (and maybe I'm just talking to myself here), do you recall having to wait until the 'late local news' to get your scores? Or the morning paper? Nowadays, it almost seems impossible not to be able to follow every game on some sort of smart phone or computer, or at least get the score from some social media outlet within minutes after it's over.

We try and do the same for Aggie fans. Once again, we'll have live stats for many home games throughout the year, post stat links when they're available for road contests, and have live audio and live video as much as we can.

And we want to make sure you have all the scores as soon as possible. If you'd like to receive an email or text for any Aggie score (you can choose which sports you want or pick 'em all), then we invite you to use e-Score. As soon as we get the score, you'll get the score - wherever you are. The score will also find its way to our Twitter feed and, of course, we'll have a recap on our website just as soon as possible after that.

Whatever method you choose, rest assured you'll know the score!

• "Being grateful" was theme for the football team last week when it visited Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento. The Aggies make a trip to the hospital during preseason camp each year, interacting with patients and their families. Sometimes it's hard to tell who's having more fun, the players or the kids. 

Either way, the Aggies come away with an appreciation for all that they have but, more importantly, are glad they are able to spread some cheer to some very deserving kids. 

Assistant Athletics Communications Director Ryan Burns joined the team on Aug. 16 and put together a wonderful recap you can watch on our All-AGcess or YouTube sites.

- Mike Robles, Assistant Athletics Director

Monday, August 15, 2011

Legend On The Pitch

To the average sports fan, the name Sisleide Lima Do Amor might not ring a bell. To the ardent soccer fan, the name Sissi will. In reality, the two names belong to the same person; the former given to her a little more than 44 years ago when she was born, the latter when she stepped onto the soccer pitch and starred for the Brazilian national women's team in the 1990's.

Sunday afternoon, she gave Aggie players the chance to say they went up against a player her former national team coach once commented, "For Brazil, Sissi is the best in the world. For us, Sissi is the queen of soccer."

That coach, Wilson Oliveira, said that in a N.Y. Times Service article after Sissi's free kick gave Brazil a dramatic win over Nigeria in the 1999 World Cup being played in the United States. Her seven goals - highlighted by a hat trick against Mexico - were tied for most in the tournament, giving her a share of the "golden boot" award.

An assistant coach for the United States, in the same article, said "She can win a game with one shot." She didn't score for the California Storm during the Aggies' 1-0 exhibition win at home on Sunday, but she gave it her best shot at tying the game on the final play, launching a long shot that was hauled in by Aggie goalie Kathleen Brandl.

It may not have looked dangerous when it left her foot but it wasn't exactly a gimme either. Sissi, now a community college coach in California who also also played in the 1995 World Cup and two Olympics, doesn't move as fast as she once did but she still had control of the ball during the game.

It'd be like playing adult league baseball and seeing a retired Nolan Ryan on the hill. He wouldn't be the fireballer that tossed seven no-hitters but I sure wouldn't want to test his fastball. Just like I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of Sissi's shot. Either one is still pretty lethal.

- Mike Robles, Assistant Athletics Director

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Podcast Contest: Name That Podcast

Football is finally here. If you're like me, Aggie fans, then you're excited for the start of football camp and you are wanting more. More football. More coach Bob Biggs. More all-around Aggie coverage. So here's the plan: We want to make a podcast with coach Biggs.

There are many factors to consider when making a podcast. Who should host the podcast? How many hosts? Do you have guests? Will you play music? How long will it be? Will there be weekly segments? What structure will you choose for the podcast? I'd like to say I have all the details ironed out and the perfect plan to give our fans just what they want. But I don't. I just know that I want a podcast. And if you're like me, then you want a podcast too. So here's what I do have so far:

Host: Doug Kelly

Co-Host: Bob Biggs

Available weekly on

That's about it…

But I think we're on the right track. Coach Biggs will be the focal point of the show and the content will obviously be centered around the football team. I'm sure that coach Biggs will review past games and give fans an in-depth look at what's on slate for the week to come.

Doug Kelly was a nice pick up too. He has been a fixture in the radio booth for years, providing detailed analysis for UC Davis football. A familiar voice for Aggie fans, Doug is sure to bring the podcast to the next level.

The rest is up to you. We want our fans to weigh in on the podcast and tell us what you want. Because after all, this podcast is for you, the fans. Here's what we're looking for:

A Name: We're open to suggestions. Leave on comment on our blog, post a message on our Facebook page or send us a tweet on Twitter. Ex. "The Bob Biggs Podcast"

Guests: What guests do you want to hear from throughout the season? Do you want to hear from alumni? Assistant coaches? Players? Should we include guests or do you want all coach Biggs all the time?

Segments: What fun segments do you want to hear each and every week? Ex. A play of the week with audio from last week's game.

Let us know what you think, Aggie fans. Make sure to your comments are on one of our social media outlets and stay tuned for a football podcast this season.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

View From The Porch

The front porch of my house needs a little attention but I think the garden hose, a broom and maybe a quick trip to the nursery is all I need to fix it. It's not that there's anything dramatically wrong with my porch - in fact, it looks pretty much like every other one on my block - I just want to make sure the first impression my guests have is a good one.

And so it goes in the world of college athletics. For a university, athletics often serve as its front porch; that is, the first and sometimes only contact the public will have with the institution and it's important to us that our house is in order.

For the Athletics Communications staff, it's a message we'll be delivering to the hundreds of student-athletes who begin returning to campus this week for the start of fall practices. We'll be giving them tips on dealing with the traditional media - what's left of it anyways - along with the far reaches of the new media, mainly the world of Facebook and Twitter.

Mainly, though, we'll be letting them know the power of their uniform.

Institutions do a wonderful job telling their stories. Using the internet and social media, they talk of their research, academics and their impact on society. All wonderful and important items. But athletics are often times the most visible parts of a university and provide another way to walk casual observers through the front door to see all a school has to offer.

Sometimes, though, a visitor only wants to stand on the porch and when they walk away what they think about your home is shaped by the view of your door.  We tell our student-athletes that athletics often times answers that door and needs to understand that responsibility.

Growing up, I was big fan of Notre Dame. Twelve years of Catholic school will do that. But beyond knowing the Fighting Irish were located in South Bend, Ind., and that they had pretty good football and basketball teams - yeah, I realize that was a long time ago - I was largely ignorant about the rest of the university. My opinion of Notre Dame was shaped purely by athletics and my thoughts about many other schools I had general awareness of were likely formed the same way.

The world has come a long way but athletics' highly visible nature can have quite an impact on how someone thinks of a school. That might not be right or fair but life is full of first impressions. 

The UC Davis women's basketball team made a historic appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season and played No. 2 Stanford on ESPN2. I want to believe a few folks checked out our athletics or campus websites out of curiosity because, let's face it, it's not like the Aggies were a traditional fixture in the tournament and people were familiar with us. 

How many bounced around the campus website a bit and learned that UC Davis is one of the leading public institutions in the country? Who knows, maybe some young grad walked into an east coast office for a job interview the follow Monday morning and their resumè popped out a little more because the hiring manager recognized the "UC Davis" name from the nationally televised game.

That's the power of the uniform. 

But off-the-field headlines can also affect that reputation, both positively and negatively, and we stress that as well. The uniform is powerful and it never really comes off. We tell student-athletes that whether they play one minute or a full game, they'll almost always be identified in the community - and in the media - as an Aggie student-athlete, even after they leave our campus. What a fellow classmate does might not be news but if a student-athletes does the same thing, it is.

We're fortunate at UC Davis to have student-athletes who understand this message and who live it. They spread the Aggies' good name not just by what they do on the fields of competition but by how they carry themselves off of them. Sometimes just being nice to the flight crew on a team roadtrip can lead to an email back to campus with a note of gratitude and another notch in an already strong reputation.

And when student-athletes earn Academic All-America awards or receive recognition for community service, it strengthens how the public views our campus. Teams carry the UC Davis banner throughout the country, serving as ambassadors for all the great work being done on this campus. They take the front porch wherever they go.

Our teams are currently on their way back to UC Davis. Women's soccer has its first practice on today, football gets it going on Saturday, and volleyball (Aug. 9), field hockey (Aug. 10) and men's soccer (Aug. 11) follow next week. Cross country and men's water polo are close behind.

Student-athletes will attend orientations and eligibility meetings - of which athletics communications is a part - as they gear up for the upcoming year. Right now, our PR machine is somewhat quiet but things will be changing fairly quickly.

The front door is ajar but we're ready to open it up.

- Mike Robles, Assistant Athletics Director, Athletics Communications