In sports, when people talk about the end of an era, that word, era, is usually misused.
An era is a period of time considered as being of a distinctive character.
Saturday marked the End of an Era, finally getting the use of that three-letter word correct.
After 39 years in the Aggie football program, Bob Biggs has stepped aside as head coach. He will be forever remembered as the first of a storied trail of quarterbacks from the former Division II university.
He was loved by players as an assistant coach (having helped legendary mentor Jim Sochor build The Aggie Way). He continued with Sochor’s replacement Bob Foster and, for the past 20 seasons, ran the program himself.
All that ended at 6:51 p.m. Saturday with a thrilling 34-27 victory over arch-rival Sacramento State.
While players, former colleagues and friends have weighed in all season long on what Biggs has meant to them, recalling special moments and wishing the 61-year-old good luck, the “next step” — as Biggs calls it — will head off into lots of directions.
“I’ve been so routine-oriented throughout my coaching career that I’ve never had time for myself,” the former Vacaville High four-sport standout told The Enterprise. “So I’m looking forward to the next chapter, thinking to myself ‘Gosh, I don’t have anything pending today — go to the beach or take a hike or go play some golf.’ Never really had time like that.”
Most perceive Biggs’ retirement as a loss for the Aggie program. However, the big winner in all of this is his wife Diane.
“It will be like getting married for the first time,” she said, laughing. “I’m going to learn all about him.”
Diane and Bob have two grown sons, Ryan and Kyle, and everyone is eager to get reacquainted.
Biggs says he has an old acoustic guitar that he’s yet to master. Lessons are on the agenda. Learning Spanish is something he wants to pursue — and he’ll get plenty of practice next summer when he, Diane and friends head to Peru.
But first, there’s transition: going from 16-hour days to sleeping till 10, if he chooses. And maybe there’s work to be done around the homestead.
Does Diane have the traditional honey-do list ready to hand to her husband?
“Oh, no!” Biggs’ wife says, again with a chuckle. “He couldn’t fix a thing, if his life depended on it.”
Well, that’s not exactly true …
Biggs’ mental tools worked well at UCD. He leaves football after going 144-85-1 as head coach. Biggs ushered the Aggies into Division I play and the competitive Big Sky Conference.
He’s mentored hundreds of student-athletes, young men who learned life through football and Biggs’ influence.
That personal touch is what Biggs will miss most.
“The relationships are so important. I’ll miss that,” Biggs says. “The people, the coaches, the players. Seeing how their lives develop from the time they’re freshmen through their senior years and beyond.”
On Saturday, standing on Jim Sochor Field in a drizzle that accompanied the event-filled fourth quarter of UCD’s season finale, Biggs fought back the tears …
“There are a lot of emotions,” Biggs told the media. “It’s always been about the players … and will always be about the players. I know they wanted to win for me, but I wanted to win this (last) one for them. It’s very, very special.”
Some in Biggs’ 39-year orbit of the UCD campus weighed in on the second-winningest coach in school football history:
Ken O’Brien (1982 tri-captain of national runners-up, former all-pro quarterback for the New York Jets): “Having Bob as a coach was a giant benefit. Anytime you have someone who was a truly special player to go along with being a great teacher talking to you every day builds a solid foundation.
“The most important things Bob passed along were not the on-the-field thoughts, rather those that helped me develop into a young person who believed in myself, become a leader and enjoy the experience along the way.”
(O’Brien was a first-round draft choice of the Jets; he was picked ahead of Dan Marino.)
Jim Sochor (winningest Aggie coach in history and program architect): “(As a player) Bob would come off the bench and turn the whole game around. He had this tremendous ability to react spontaneously to the game, to make plays. He threw such a catchable ball that was so accurate.
“He had a great career … and (we’ve had) a good relationship all these years.”
(In 1971, Biggs led the Aggies to score 16 points in the final 20 seconds of a 30-29 victory over Cal State Hayward.)
UCD junior QB Randy Wright: “He’s a great coach … a stand-up guy. You can go to him for anything, if you have class issues, off-the-field issues. … Just a man you want in your life; (a man) who will make an impact on anyone he talks to.”
Jim Belenis (former Aggie player and assistant coach): “Bob is a phenomenal athlete. One day I was trying to improve my hang time. I was trying to be the punter at UCD.
“Bob said try and hit the light standard. This was at Toomey (Field). I said, ‘You know how high that is?’ He grabbed the football and nailed it. One try. I don’t think I hit it five times in my next 1,000 tries — and he did it without warming up.
“He could have been quite a hustler.”
Steve Smyte (former UCD and Boise State assistant, current Davis High head football coach): “He is the best friend a guy can have. Bob is the most genuine coach I have ever had the privilege of working with.
“He’s humble, generous, positive and has an amazing capacity to see the best in people … and to get people to see the best in themselves.”
Smyte recalled the camaraderie among Aggie coaches, the friendly competition in noontime basketball games and throwing the football around:
“Bob understands how each play fits into the tapestry of the game and was great at setting up plays and running screens at precisely the right time.
“There is not a day that goes by during football season, and many days in the offseason, that I am reminded of a Biggs story, memory or ‘Biggs-ism.’ ”
Smyte stands in a long line of well-wishers as the departing UCD coach now looks forward to his own new era.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.