In 1970, the UC Davis football team promoted an assistant coach, who had never been a head coach before, to the big seat. His name was Jim Sochor.
When Sochor retired as the winningest coach in school history, the program hired Bob Foster, then Bob Biggs. Despite none of the men having previous head coaching experience, they combined to lead the Aggies to winning records in 37 consecutive seasons. Biggs retired this fall with the second-most victories in UCD history.
So forgive Aggie Athletic Director Terry Tumey if he isn’t worried that new head coach Ron Gould, hired Monday after 16 seasons as an assistant at Cal, has never been a head coach before.
For Gould’s part, he says he’s been preparing for the challenge of being a head coach. while waiting patiently for a school that would be a perfect fit. In fact, in addition to his duties as the run-game coordinator for the Golden Bears, Gould was the team’s associate head coach since 2008.
“I’d always thought about being a head coach but I never knew which programs were open or vacant because I always kept my eyes focused on Cal,” Gould, 47, told the Enterprise. “But in talking to my wife (Theresa) over the years, I knew I wanted to be a head coach because I want to be able to influence a whole group.
“I never anticipated it being this early or this soon, but when I had the opportunity to submit my résumé (to UCD), I was so excited because 1) we get to stay in the Bay Area and then 2) to have an opportunity to be at such a prestigious academic school.”
Just hours after he was introduced, Gould had already formulated — and was getting started on — a plan of action for his first 30 days on the job. That plan includes talking with assistant coaches as he tries to get his staff set up as soon as possible, meeting with recruits and their families as soon as NCAA rules allow and getting to know the campus environment. He even planned to get all his human resources paperwork done that first day, so he could focus on more important tasks.
Building the coaching staff is a top priority for two reasons. First, there are other jobs at stake as Gould decides who he will retain from the Aggie current staff and who he wants to bring in.
The second reason is that Gould knows how important the support of quality assistants will be as he takes on two challenges: being a first-time head coach and working in the Football Championship Subdivision for the first time since coaching defensive backs at Portland State 20 years ago.
“I’ve been watching some games and (the Big Sky) conference is very tough and very competitive,” Gould said. “Coaching is coaching; it doesn’t matter (where you are). But it’s also important for me to hire a great staff and I’ve got to empower that staff.
“It’s all about the players and all about the coaches doing a great job of educating the players on the football field, getting close to them, getting to know their heartbeat, so that way they will go out and play hard for you.”
Gould, who is best known for mentoring running backs but was a defensive back in his playing days at the University of Oregon, already has a pretty good idea of the type of offensive and defensive systems he wants to run. Those will be finalized when a full staff is in place, and Gould has had more time to review the Aggie roster. On that front, Gould said he likes what he’s seen so far:
“As I looked at the personnel, we have the personnel to do the things that I like to do. It’s going to be a very exciting offense, with a lot of tempo, and it is going to be balanced. I’m looking forward to getting the coordinators in so we can get the system in place and then go from there.”
— Reach Chris Saur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047. Follow him on Twitter at @CSaurDEsports