Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. Bee file, 2011 Bob Biggs – who has spent almost 40 years as a quarterback, assistant or head coach at UC Davis – will retire from coaching after the Causeway Classic against Sacramento State.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Coach Bob Biggs has been the face of UC Davis football for decades. "Tired and disappointed" after the Aggies finished 4-7 in 2011, he decided last Thanksgiving to retire after this season.

  • Ailene Voisin

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    • When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

    Where: Aggie Stadium

    Tickets: or (530) 752-2471


    Radio: 1140, 950, 90.3, 93.1


    • 15-4: Record as head coach, including eight straight wins (2000-07)

    26-9: Record as an assistant and head coach

    3-1: Record as a player

Ailene Voisin: UC Davis' Biggs looks forward to tackling other interests

Published: Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 - 12:09 am

We always knew Bob Biggs was smart. We just didn't know he was this smart.

After his UC Davis Aggies host the Sacramento State Hornets on Saturday, Biggs will put down his headset and throw away his cheat sheets, then begin thinking and living outside the (football) box.

That acoustic guitar that has been gathering dust for years? The Spanish classes that always intrigued him? That trip to Peru with the neighbors?

"I never envisioned being 65 and still doing what I'm doing," the longtime Aggies coach, 61, said after Thursday's annual Causeway Classic news conference. "I never envisioned being that person. And, you know, I just wouldn't mind doing a few other things."

Playing guitar. Speaking Spanish. Traveling to South America. His upcoming hobbies of choice – or his "bucket list," as Biggs only half-jokingly refers to it – might even include a venture into politics. Who knows? He's open to anything. He wants to make a difference. He is in terrific health, and, not that he needed a scare or anything, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was sent to the hospital after experiencing an irregular heartbeat.

At all levels – high school, college, pros – football has morphed into the beast that doesn't sleep. It's a grueling 12-month, 24/7 undertaking that consumes and can overwhelm. Harbaugh – with his smoldering eyes, constant fidgeting and habit of speaking in clipped, intense soundbites – always appears ready to burst.

That has never been Biggs. With his floppy hat, trim physique and mild, cerebral manner, he could be mistaken for one of UC Davis' law professors. He has taught tennis and racquetball classes for decades, and his reluctance to lighten his load during these trying last seasons might have been the first hint that his tenure was nearing its end.

There were other clues, other indications, including the departure of his friend and longtime athletic director Greg Warzecka; the heightened expectations that commonly accompany the construction of pricey new football stadiums; a depressed economy that resulted in tuition hikes and budget cuts; and mostly, the growing perception among boosters that Biggs' once-powerful Division II program stalled after transitioning to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

The Aggies need a victory Saturday against the Hornets, who are contending for an FCS playoff berth, to match last year's 4-7 record, the worst since Biggs became the head coach in 1993. Conjecture about Biggs' future intensified throughout last season, coinciding with the school's search for an athletic director.

And as we said, Biggs is smart. He reads novels and newspapers and tea leaves, too. He didn't belabor the obvious.

"At the end of last season, I was tired and disappointed," Biggs said. "It was a very reflective time. 'What could I have done differently?' I don't like excuses. Sometimes it's not necessarily the message, it's the messenger. Sometimes a little different perspective helps. And during the Thanksgiving break, when I talked things over with my wife, it became clear in my mind that there are other things I want to do."

It usually doesn't work like this. Coaches seldom get to select their retirement date, never mind spending a season preparing for their departure and taking a final bow against a longtime regional rival.

But Biggs – who produced a handful of NFL quarterbacks, including former Jesuit star J.T. O'Sullivan – is more than deserving of a loud round of applause. Critics can cite his recent record and argue that the Aggies need to change with the times, and they receive no argument here. In recent years, Biggs revised his team's offseason workout routine, altered the strength program and enlisted more input from his players, implementing minor tweaks when a major re-evaluation probably was warranted.

On Thursday, he acknowledged he would have been benefited from a break, that after almost 40 years as an Aggies quarterback, assistant or head coach – and as a powerful, relentless advocate for the university's exhausting move to Division I – he would have welcomed a one-year sabbatical. UC Davis has a history of giving successful coaches a breather; former women's basketball coach Jorja Hoehn returned briefly following a one-year leave of absence.

But not today, not in these times.

Amid budget crunches and a job description requiring head coaches to be fundraisers, counselors, tutors and parent figures, they get sabbaticals when they get fired. Or when they retire.

"I wish him the best," said Hornets coach Marshall Sperbeck, another Northern California college coaching fixture. "We're going to miss him. He is truly one of the good people in our business."

Yes, he is.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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