Friday, September 16, 2011

Looking Back

It's not always the games at UC Davis that stand out, it's the people behind the scenes that often make the most impact and the Aggie family has lost a couple of great ones recently with the passing of John Hardie and Brian Thompson.

John passed away on Sept. 1 and is being remembered by many people for his contributions to the community and to UC Davis - especially starting almost 50 years ago when the campus really began to grow. But I'll remember him as the official timekeeper at Aggie football games. He and I combined for more than 50 years of service at Toomey Field, although his 46 years are a big chunk of that. I kept stats on the top floor and John ran the clock, directly to my left. We both had prime seats, not so much for the games, but for the sideshow of having two sets of coaches barking instructions - and other "fun" words - from each side of us.

I didn't know John in his campus roles. I mainly knew him as our timekeeper and the friendly face he brought to every game and his love of the Aggies. I'm always amazed how many former administrators have volunteered their time to run our clocks, serve on the chain crew or help in any variety of ways at our games. They are one of a kind and John is at the top of the list.

Brian, who passed away on Thursday, was someone I got to know a lot better, mainly because I saw him at just about every Aggie game and event that we had on campus. And a lot that were on the road too. It was always fun to be on some far away roadtrip and see B.T. in the hotel ready to chat and talk about whatever game was coming up. He and his wife Audrey were Aggie loyalists through and through. That's funny in itself because while his kids, Tip and Pam, are UC Davis alums, B.T. went to UC Berkeley. You'd never know it by his allegiance though. Heck, he even played in the UC Davis alumni band. 

How strong was his devotion to UC Davis Athletics? He'd constantly make the drive from Castroville so that he could see the Aggies. Then he'd go home and the next thing you know, he'd be back on campus for another game. I can barely make it from Natomas sometimes.

John and B.T. were both honored with Special Recognition Awards at UC Davis for the longtime volunteer service to Aggie Athletics. B.T. even received the College Division Volunteer of the Year in 2000 from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). Both men were well-deserving recipients of their honors.

Again, it's not the games you remember, it's the people, and John and B.T. will be missed.


I started following college women's volleyball in the mid-1980's when I was at Cal Poly. We had pretty good teams when I was there and it was a given that we'd be ranked in the top 20.  But in those days, unless your school resided on the west coast - or Hawaii - you could forget about getting any kind of respect in the volleyball world. It was the west coast and then everyone else. But then Texas won it all in 1988 and the rest of the country started catching up.

Nebraska and Penn State became mainstays at the NCAA Final Four, other schools like Wisconsin and Minnesota made appearances, and while the west coast still dominated the titles, it was clear the power was being distributed throughout the country. Recently, it's been Penn State that's been the dominant program with four straight NCAA titles.

So when you think about how competitive college volleyball currently is, getting mentioned among the country's best is a great accomplishment. Kudos to the Aggie team which has already beaten two NCAA Tournament teams from last year - including Missouri which went to the Sweet 16 - and as of Friday afternoon was off to an amazing 11-1 start. 

And a Causeway Classic win over Sacramento State on Tuesday has already sweetened a great start to the season.

UC Davis is home this weekend with the Aggie Invitational so take some time and check out their great play.


I was getting set to write the recap this week of the women's golf team triumphant start to their season and I was trying to figure the most notable part of their win at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic at Colorado State. Was it winning by two shots over Colorado and Illinois? Maybe it was Demi Runas taking medalist honors by three strokes? Or perhaps it was that UC Davis took down 18 other teams with a lineup that featured two players who haven't stepped in their first college classroom.

That's what they call a "good problem to have." 

I didn't know what to expect when the Aggies took off for their trip. Three returners - Runas, Amy Simanton and Jessica Chulya - formed the core but I really didn't know what to expect from the freshmen Blair Lewis and Beverly Vatananugulkit. It didn't help that I kept misspelling Vatana, Vatananag, um, it didn't help that I kept misspelling Beverly's name. But they came through, as coach Anne Walker said, like veterans, both with top-30 placings

All five players contributed and UC Davis opened the season the best way possible. The Aggies will return to Colorado in a few days for the Golfweek Challenge and look to do it all over again.

- Mike Robles, Assistant Athletics Director
  Athletics Communications

1 comment:

  1. The Aggie Family has lost two of it's own. I personally did not know John, but I was fortunate and honored to know Brian Thompson and his beautiful family. He was always quick with a smile and a kind word. I will always remember him and Audrey coming to volleyball games to lend their support and enjoy Aggie Athletics. It was always evident how much they enjoyed being a part of Aggie Athletics. The Aggie Family loves you and misses you greatly. You will always be fondly remembered.