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UC Davis Centennial
100 years of service, solutions, impact

UC Davis Athletic Program
(Flash video, 1 hr)

Produced by the UC Davis Emeriti Association

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Looking Back

History in the making: Athletic Program

Athletics have always been part and parcel of the academic experience at UC Davis. As football coach and later Athletic Director Jim Sochor explains, “Our philosophy always has been, ‘You come first as a student, and athletics is a bonus. And we want that bonus to be the best experience you will have in the university.”

Here are interviews from the documentary:

Photo: Marya Welch. (UC Davis archival photo)

Marya Welch was UC Davis’ first female on the coaching faculty. She started the equestrian, rifle and archery clubs, all sports she enjoyed herself. (UC Davis archival photo)

Marya Welch

In 1947, when there were 1,500 men and 100 women on the campus, Marya Welch was the first woman hired in athletics at UC Davis. She fought to integrate men and women in physical education classes and started the equestrian, rifle, and archery clubs, all sports she enjoyed herself. “I wrangled an invitation to Horse Show, a competition between Stanford, Mills, and Berkeley. We wanted to ride our own horses but they didn’t want any part of that,” she says. “So we had to draw [to use their horses]. We won first place. The second year the same thing happened. The third year — we weren’t invited.”

Will Lotter

A successful football player at UC Berkeley himself, Will Lotter found his way to UC Davis in 1952 to coach baseball, football and, later, soccer. Later, as dean of students, Lotter was responsible for establishing junior varsity teams in sports that he coached. He opposed giving scholarships to Davis athletes. He says, “I realize times have changed, and I’m probably the old school … but we had such a uniqueness in our program that we had students who came in that weren’t getting paid.”

Herbert Schmalenberger

Head football coach until 1969, Schmalenberger put more of his focus on his other job, teaching. He helped to get a department, major and teaching credential program started for the Department of Education (now a full School of Education). He asked himself: “There should be equal opportunity. And how do we do it?”

Dean Ryan

Dean Ryan co-created the physical education major and master’s degree program on campus with Edmund Bernauer. “I think the physical education major was unique in the sense it was one of the few programs on campus that studied the human. I mean, it was a biologically oriented campus, but very few studied ‘man’ as a functioning whole.”

Edmund Bernauer

In 1962, Edmund Bernauer came to UC Davis, where he created a human performance laboratory that many considered comparable to Harvard’s lab. He also co-developed the physical education major that involved academic coursework. “They had done a nice good job on anticipating space for a laboratory, because, as you well know, the University of California expects faculty to do research. At that point they had set aside 5,000 square feet but they had no idea what to do with it. I did.”

Jim Sochor

In 1970, Jim Sochor was named head football coach of UC Davis. He delivered 20 winning seasons and 18 consecutive titles during his coaching, which continues to be an NCAA record. Having instilled “Aggie Pride” into the heart of his players, he showed them that unity and togetherness are essential to any team, which was proved true when four players went on to claim Superbowl rings. Sochor ended his formal career after a stint as athletic director at UC Davis. “We had a lot to overcome, which gave us the impetus, drive and urge to succeed,” he remembers.

Take a look back at UC Davis’ history