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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Editorial: UC Davis athletics moving in right direction

Last week, UC Davis athletic director Greg Warzecka announced his retirement after 16 years of service.

With Warzecka moving on, UC Davis athletics will have the chance to move forward. The program has been stagnant in recent years, and at this point, any change is good change.

Warzecka led UC Davis to some meaningful accomplishments during his tenure. He oversaw the Aggies’ transition to Division I. He also helped facilitate the football team’s move into the Big Sky Conference in 2012 and was present as UC Davis made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

While Warzecka deserves some credit for the growth of UC Davis athletics, his decisions over the past several years have been questionable at best.

He chose to retain men’s basketball coach Gary Stewart through the end of the 2010-11 season, despite protest from Stewart’s own players a year before. This action set back the men’s basketball program for the next few years.

It was under Warzecka’s watch that four sports were cut. While Warzecka can hardly be blamed for tough economic times, he showed severe misjudgment by adding a field hockey program just one year prior to the cuts. His office also demonstrated a lack of transparency in releasing information about the teams to be eliminated.

With Warzecka out of the picture, UC Davis athletics will have a chance to build a better program.

Ironically, the transition to the post-Warzecka era will be largely centered around his final major hiring: head men’s basketball coach Jim Les.

Les was let go from his previous post at Bradley University in the middle of the 2010-11 season for multiple reasons. The fact that his son is on the UC Davis team has raised questions about the department’s “nationwide search.” Nonetheless, his hire does mark a significant step forward for the program.

Les has compiled a winning record over his career and his experience guiding Bradley to a Sweet 16 appearance should energize the team for the rebuilding stretch.

The one remaining step for the Aggies to move on is hiring a new athletic director.

While the athletics department claims it will conduct yet another “nationwide search,” its best option may be in its own backyard.

While it is unlikely either would take the job, head football coach Bob Biggs and former women’s basketball coach Sandy Simpson fit the mold. They both have in-depth knowledge of the UC Davis sports scene, as well as experience building a winning program.

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