Friday, November 16, 2012

Biggs is the gold standard

Bob Biggs is the gold standard by which I measure all other coaches, and from that standpoint, I've been spoiled. 

For me, I've rarely been associated with a coach such as him that's been as accessible, friendly and appreciative with the media. Gameday interviews - sometimes as close as 20 minutes to kickoff - have routinely been met with a "No problem, just find me on the field" response. That type of open-door policy in my business is rare.

Win, lose or draw, he's always made himself available for postgame media interviews. It hasn't always been easy for him, but he's always done it and he's always represented his team and UC Davis in the highest regard. He's been honest, introspective and, most of all, respectful with the media.

His accessibility to the media is second-to-none. Several years ago I had his assistant coaches upset at me because I would refer a reporter to call his office phone - another rarity, by the way, is coaches willing to give out their direct phone number - and he'd take the call and do an interview right in the middle of their meetings. 

"We can't get anything done," they'd tell me. Coach was just too nice to turn the reporters away.

This week hasn't been any different. I set up a radio interview for him for Tuesday. No big deal except the interview was for 6:45 a.m. and, oh yeah, he had to remember and call in, rather than have the station call him in case he forgot. Of course he agreed to do it and of course it went off without a hitch.

Whether it's been a national reporter or the campus paper, he's treated them all the same. In fact, the California Aggie had a reporter a couple of years ago who was still very green when it came to football. Coach Biggs gave the reporter one of his practice plans along with an offer to sit in on team meetings in order to learn as much as possible.

We used to have a day in the preseason when Coach Biggs and the captains would meet with local media to help preview the season. I increasingly found it harder to encourage media to come out until one of them told me it's because our program was so accessible that they knew they could get whatever they needed, whenever they needed it and that they didn't need a "one-day window" of opportunity. Coach would have it no other way.

Coach Biggs made only one request of me when it came to the media and that was he wanted to know the reporters' names before he met them. I've often whispered names to him as we approached TV crews or reporters and he invariably would greet them by their first names and talk to them as if he'd known them all his life. It was never an act, his interest in them has always been genuine.

That's how he treats everyone and that's why everyone around UC Davis Athletics is going to miss him. I've had colleagues at other schools tell me horror stories about their football coaches and I just smile because I know I've had it good. No, I've had it great.

His appreciation for the staff that helps the program is extraordinary as well. Just yesterday, in fact, with the team gathered around, he brought to the front the student athletic trainers who have toiled in the trenches at every practice this fall. Coach Biggs told them how much he appreciated their efforts and the team gave them all a well-deserved round of applause. And then they all took a picture.

Like the rest of his friends and colleagues, I'm going to miss seeing Coach Biggs around Hickey Gym but I know he deserves all the enjoyment that's ahead of him.

He's been gold.



If I've ever had one hesitancy, though, about Coach Biggs, it's been that he thinks he's a doctor. Jeff Hogan, head athletic trainer, and I jokingly refer to him as "Dr. Biggs" because of his willingness to discuss injuries with the media. Most coaches run away from any talk about a player being hurt but Coach Biggs has done everything but show the x-ray.

"He has a second-degree sprain of the medial lateral miniscus," is an example of something he might say followed by "Am I allowed to say that?" (editor's note: That medical terminology above makes absolutely no sense and I know it.)

There's never been ulterior motives in his "doctor talk" but it's been challenging trying to keep up with him.



It's been a long fall season for the Athletics Communications staff which is why we were excited to welcome Eric Bankston to our staff last week. Eric comes to us from Cal State Northridge where he filled a variety of roles on the Matadors' media relations staff. He's also gained experience with nearly every professional team in Southern California.

In the immediate future, Eric will handle men's basketball responsibilities for us and was barely here a couple of days before we shipped him off to Oklahoma State for the Aggies' season opener. His enthusiasm is contagious and I think I've heard "Thank you" at least a thousand times. He's one of the nicest individuals I've ever met and we're happy he's on our team.

He's excited to be here but I know he's missing his wife and new baby boy, Jacob, who will join him up here in the near future. (Shhh, don't tell his wife but I'm sure he's getting some good sleep right now.)

And while I'm at it, this is my opportunity to publicly thank my co-workers Mark Honbo and Amanda Piechowski for their extraordinary efforts in helping fill in the gaps while we were short a staff member the past few months. Thirteen sports saw some kind of action during the fall season and these individuals helped make sure everything got covered. 

We have 23 varsity teams at UC Davis but I'm appreciative and thankful for the three-person team we had working in overdrive during the fall.

Now, Mark and Amanda, get back to work.

Mike Robles is Assistant Athletics Director, Communications and already misses Coach Biggs.

1 comment:

  1. Nah, Amanda deserves the credit. Being short-handed meant I got to hang with the swim/dive team for a month, which might as well be a pay raise.