Joe Davidson

Jim Sochor almost gave up Aggie Way for silver and black

Legendary UC Davis football coach Jim Sochor addresses his quarterback, Ken O’Brien, during a game in 1982.
Legendary UC Davis football coach Jim Sochor addresses his quarterback, Ken O’Brien, during a game in 1982. Sacramento Bee file

Jim Sochor was tempted to switch allegiances.

It might have made for something of a cosmic switch of football fortunes, but Sochor didn’t bite.

In 1976, the late UC Davis football coach pondered swapping his trademark game-day scarf, laced with Aggies blue and gold, for all things silver and black. His boss would have been Al Davis.

Sochor could have been an Oakland Raiders assistant coach in charge of running backs. This was the season the Raiders went on to win Super Bowl XI for their first championship.

It didn’t happen, but Sochor was flattered by the offer. This is one of many Sochor tales that will be shared at Aggie Stadium at UCD in a tribute to Sochor at 10 a.m. April 30. Sochor died last fall after a long illness. The tribute is open and free to the public.

There would be no tribute, no such remembrances had Sochor jumped to the NFL 40 years ago. He was courted by decades-long friend John Madden, the Raiders’ head coach.

“John showed me the Raiders’ coaching offices – cold, with no windows,” Sochor told me years ago. “It was a meat locker. The Raiders didn’t want coaches falling asleep.

“My office in Davis was warm, overlooked the pool. I stayed.”

Under Sochor, the Aggies continued to soar as a national, trend-setting Division II powerhouse, and the rest is history.

It was this sort of commitment and loyalty to the Aggies that made Sochor so beloved. He coached UCD from 1970 to 1988, winning 18 conference titles with 18 playoff showings, culminated by a College Football Hall of Fame enshrinement. Sochor’s principles, including using positive reinforcement over barking and hissing, became the foundation for what he called “Aggie Pride.”

Longtime Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning will be the master of ceremonies. Guest speakers will include some of the biggest names in Aggies football history: Scott Barry, Rolf Benirschke, Bob Biggs, Ken O’Brien and others.

Lopa love

While his days playing linebacker for the Bears were often slowed by injuries, the Grant High School alumnus endured in the classroom and community.

Lopa received his diploma – while holding 10-month-old son Mjour – in Demember at Cal with a degree in social welfare and this week was awarded the Henry “Tiny” Bates Award, presented annually by the California Grid Club of Sacramento to a Sacramento-area senior who exemplifies outstanding performance and citizenship in competition and in the classroom.

Other Bates Award winners from Grant include Worrell Williams in 2008 and Syd’Quan Thompson in 2009.

Remembering EliEli McCullough, who coached Dusty Baker in basketball at Del Campo in the 1960s, was fondly remembered during a memorial service Wednesday at Divine Savior Catholic Church in Orangevale.

McCullough died last month at 77.

Baker, now managing the Washington Nationals,

once said he learned the virtues of honesty and commitment from McCullough, who benched him for a game after Baker said he couldn’t play because of illness; Baker actually went fishing. Word got back to McCullough, who reminded Baker that such acts can define a man.