Friday, March 21, 2014

Mount Aggie comes together for a roundtable

Take Mount Rushmore, drop it in Davis and call it Mount Aggie. Now, what iconic figures of UC Davis Athletics would you chisel into the granite? Good luck trying to whittle it down to four.  

OK, let's narrow the focus a bit. There's been almost a hundred years' worth of Aggie football but if four coaches found their faces sculpted into a side of a mountain, it'd be hard to argue if that group included Jim Sochor, Bob Foster, Bob Biggs and Fred Arp.

Sochor's run as head coach from 1970-88 made him the program's winningest coach with 156 wins. Foster, the defensive architect during much of that era, followed Sochor as head coach from 1989-92 before Biggs took over and rattled out 144 victories in his 20-year run that ended with his 2012 retirement.

Arp was the common thread through all three, weaving more than 40 years on the defensive side of the ball and retiring in 2007 as one of the most beloved assistant coaches this school has ever had.

So, grab a chisel, hoist yourself on the side of Mount Aggie and make it happen.

Sochor, Biggs and Arp are still visible around the program, whether it be games, fundraisers or other events. Arp's also at every Aggie road game, as he has been for decades. Foster, after bouncing around coaching jobs at Oregon, Cal and Colorado, has settled into retirement in the Pacific Northwest.

Those circumstances are the reason why Mar. 12 was a fun day and why I was lucky enough to be a fly on the wall - or, based on my eating habits, the elephant in the room - when Sochor, Foster and Biggs joined current head coach Ron Gould to talk about Aggie Pride, Causeway Classic memories and what makes UC Davis a special place.
(L-R): Bob Foster, Fred Arp, Jim Sochor,
Ron Gould, Bob Biggs

Mike Angius, director of athletics development, and Scott Brayton, assistant athletics director for marketing and promotions, arranged for MediaWorks on campus to tape the discussion. I was a late add to help move things along but really all that meant was I was able to ask about things I wanted to hear about.

Arp, who makes the hour-long commute from his Weimar in the foothills outside Sacramento on a regular basis, was supposed to be part of the roundtable but a busted fan belt on his drive in delayed his arrival. Still, he was able to visit with his friends afterwards with Foster noting, "Look, Fred even got new Birkenstock's for the occasion."

The hour-long talk was filmed in the Bruce Edwards Club Room at Aggie Stadium and was a personal thrill. I've spent time with each of the coaches through the years but sharing lunch with them, watching them interact during the taping and then being around all five of them afterwards was certainly an enviable moment for any Aggie football fan.

The roundtable is currently in post-production. I hope that means they're taking those extra 40 pounds off me that the camera added on. It'll be made available to watch soon.

Jim Sochor
All four of the highly respected coaches are strong proponents of Coach Gould and have been very enthusiastic in his taking over the program. Similarly, Gould is a big fan of all of them. Biggs still has an office near the football staff and visits regularly with Gould. Foster was a coaching colleague with Gould at Cal and they maintain a close relationship. Sochor and Gould arranged afterwards for the legendary coach to come out to an upcoming spring practice to talk to the team. 

Having the five Aggie coaches as a resource is something not lost on Coach Gould.

"This is a real family," said Gould afterwards. "To have these guys here is really special to me. It's a tremendous honor to be amongst them. I hope someday I can be talked about in the same vein as them when we talk about great coaches like those four.

"When I got the job I called Coach Biggs and said 'I'm not going to let you retire," he added. " 'I'm going to be picking your brain every opportunity I get.' The fact his office is 10 feet away from me allows me to go call on him and he's always readily available to talk with me about anything."

Sochor came to UC Davis from San Francisco State in 1967 and has been synonymous with Aggie football for more than 40 years. Foster and Biggs are UC Davis alums and were Aggie-grown football products before their coaching days. Arp has been an Aggie since the 1960's. 

"I'm just so honored and so fortunate that these guys have let me in and accepted me as a part of their family and in helping me anyway they can."

Mike Robles is assistant athletics director who feels very fortunate to regard each of the five men as friends and colleagues.