After UC Davis defeated Sacramento State 48-30 in the Causeway Classic on Saturday, Aggies senior quarterback Ben Scott bear-hugged coach Ron Gould after the postgame news conference and said, “I love you.”
That emotional moment only reinforced what many people anticipated – Gould would not return for the fifth and final year of his contract.
First-year athletic director Kevin Blue made the announcement Monday morning and said a national search is under way for Gould’s replacement.
“A multitude of factors were taken into consideration in making this decision, and it did not come easily,” Blue said in a statement. “Similar to how he’s operated throughout his tenure at UC Davis, Ron handled our discussion about this matter with class.”
Gould, in a statement released through UCD, said he was grateful for the opportunity and thanked his players and staff for “their willingness to buy into my vision and work hard every day to attain it.”
The Aggies went 12-33 during Gould’s four seasons. They went 5-7 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference in his first season, then tailed off to 2-9, 2-9 and 3-8 . Gould, 51, did go 3-1 in the Causeway Classic.
“Although we were not able to reach our goals on the field, I couldn’t be more proud of all that we accomplished during my time at UC Davis,” Gould said. “We have made tremendous progress and laid the foundation for a very bright future for UC Davis football. My wife (Teresa) and I will be forever grateful for the time that we had at UC Davis and the amazing relationships we have forged.”
Gould told The Sacramento Bee before Saturday’s season finale that he wanted to fulfill the last year of his contract because he thought the program was finally turning the corner. He was due to make a base salary of $235,000 in 2017.
He said he was proud of his last two recruiting classes and anticipated signing another strong group of freshmen in February. Gould thought he would have the talent and depth to overcome injuries, which decimated the Aggies the past three seasons.
“We’re bringing in quality kids, so we believe we’re close to getting over the hump,” Gould said Wednesday. “The foundation is built, but sometimes it’s tough because everything is predicated off wins and losses. But undoubtedly, whether I’m here or somebody else is here next year, this team is really, really going to be successful.”
Despite his record, Gould established a strong relationship with his players.
“Coach Gould has always been there for us,” senior safety Zach Jones said during Thursday’s Causeway Classic luncheon. “The support system he has for us, the belief he has in us. ... He’s been a great coach, a great leader and a great mentor, and I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for us and this program.”
Blue said his coaching search will be assisted by a committee that has extensive experience with UCD athletics and academics “along with expertise from the highest levels of football.”
The hiring of Gould, an assistant at Cal for 16 seasons, was a departure for UCD. The school had successfully hired coaches who were players and assistants under Jim Sochor, who turned the Aggies into a Division II national power from 1970 to 1988.
After his retirement, Sochor turned the program over to his former assistant Bob Foster (1989 to 1992), who was followed by his assistant Bob Biggs (1993 to 2012).
With former Cal coach Jeff Tedford now at Fresno State, Gould could rejoin his ex-boss.
Note – Senior running back Manusamoa Luuga was named the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 249 yards against Sac State. He also was named UC Davis’ Most Outstanding and Most Inspirational Player during the team’s football banquet Sunday.