UC Davis program remains similar following Biggs’ resignation


Bob Biggs resigned after two decades as UC Davis’ head football coach following last season, but Ron Gould has hardly let the Davis, Calif., icon retire.

Gould, UC Davis’ first-year head coach, said he speaks with Biggs frequently. He calls Biggs, or the longtime head coach will drop by the football offices.

“He’s been very, very gracious with his time,” Gould said. “I’ve asked him a lot of questions. I said I wasn’t going to let him retire. I bounce different ideas off of him. I’m trying to learn all the nuances here at UC Davis.

“Anytime you replace a legendary coach, that’s hard, it’s big shoes to fill. It’s a legacy here. There’s always pressure when you have legendary coaches around.”

Gould spent the last 16 seasons coaching running backs at the University of California. Cal has a reputation as an academically elite school, but Gould inherited a program run at one of the best public institutions in the country. Davis consistently ranks in the top 10 among public universities. The school is considered a public Ivy, comparable to the Ivy League schools on the East Coast. The school’s out-of-state tuition is so expensive there’s only one non-California native on the football team because Davis has to use two scholarships on out-of-state recruits to cover costs.

“Even though I come from the UC system, this is vastly different than what I came from,” Gould said. “These kids around here now — there were smart kids at Cal — but these kids around here, they study their butts off. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Since Gould’s arrival, UC Davis’ players are required to sit in the first five rows of class, no matter what class it is. Class checks by coaches are frequent. Grade checks for every player are required weekly.

On the field, Gould has reinvigorated the program with energy.

“The intensity is ratcheted up because of this new opportunity,” Davis senior defensive end Nick King said. “It’s not the same repetitive year after year. We have young coaches that are excited about coaching, so we are excited about playing. The competitive edge of having this new chance to rewrite the past couple of years is a nice fresh start.”

The results have been evident thus far. UCD comes to Bozeman for Saturday’s showdown with No. 5 Montana State with a 3-1 mark in league. The Aggies won three games during their first year in the Big Sky last fall. An upset win over the Bobcats would thrust the Aggies into first place in the conference.

“They are a well-coached and smart football team,” MSU head coach Rob Ash said. “They are physically capable too. They know what they are doing and because they are intelligent guys, they have a multiple scheme on offense and defense that makes them tough to prepare for.”

Despite the change in regime, the Aggies look very similar to the outfit that came to Bozeman in 2011 and hosted the Bobcats last season in Davis. At one point, Gould benched four-year starting quarterback Randy Wright in favor of Boise State transfer Jimmy Laughrea. Wright is again the starter and has led the Aggies to the quick league start. UCD still runs a pro-style offense filled with motions and shifts. Defensively, the team keeps it simple and solid.

“The thing they’ve done best is they haven’t changed very much,” Ash said. “The differences are very minimal. The defensive schemes are maybe a little more aggressive, but offensively, it looks very much the same. They were able to build on the coaching staff they had there for 20 years and avoid making very many changes.”

Biggs remains an symbol of stability in Davis. He was a standout quarterback for the Aggies in the 1970s and spent the majority of his life at the school. He helped usher UCD into the Division I era. He won 144 games in his 20 years at the school.

Losing such experience could be detrimental to a program, but the Aggies seem to have adjusted aptly.

“I think the edge we bring now is noticeable. With a new coach, you think you have new opportunities as individuals,” King said. “It’s a new chapter in UC Davis’ illustrious history. It’s a revitalization of the way we play and the way we act.”

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.