CHANCELL-ING: A Touchdown for UC Davis and Our City

Chancellor Gary S. May speaks to Keelan Doss as a film crew records their conversation.
Chancellor Gary S. May spoke to Keelan Doss when the alumnus returned to campus with an HBO film crew as part of the network’s show “Hard Knocks.” (Mark Honbo/UC Davis)

I’ve often said that athletics is the front porch of the university. And right about now, the view from our porch couldn’t be better.

Over the past few years, the national spotlight has been shining on UC Davis athletics brightly. It’s a great look for our university, our remarkable student-athletes, coaching staffs, and alumni and friends who cheer on UC Davis teams.

Logo for Chancell-ing column with photo of Chancellor Gary S. May.

This “Ag-scension” is also a great look for the city of Davis. When our women’s basketball team reaches the NCAA tournament, or one of our wide receiver alums lands a spot in the NFL, it lets the outside world know we’ve got something good here in Davis.

Right now we’re in the prime time of fall sports. The UC Davis football team is the defending co-champion of the Big Sky Conference, and there’s plenty of excitement for the season.

Those of you who subscribe to HBO might’ve cheered when UC Davis got some excellent screen time in August. Our university was part of the storyline on “Hard Knocks,” an HBO series that is following the Oakland Raiders through its 2019 training camp. Our own Keelan Doss emerged as a star.

One of the episodes focused on Keelan visiting his alma mater here at UC Davis. He graduated in 2018 with a sociology degree and set records as a wide receiver.

The shots of UC Davis Health Stadium on HBO were a great moment for us, especially with more than 800,000 viewers tuning in. I even made a cameo appearance — but it was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor.

At UC Davis, the excitement doesn’t stop with football. Basketball season kicks off next month, and our women’s team will defend as Big West Conference champions. Their previous season was one for the books, including a 16-game winning streak, a third-consecutive regular-season title — and another trip to the NCAA Big Dance.

Forward Morgan Bertsch was drafted by the Dallas Wings in the 2019 WNBA draft — the first in our history (she then went to play for the Russian League). And for the third straight year, Jennifer Gross was named Coach of the Year in the Big West.

That’s just a sample of how UC Davis is excelling in athletics these days. Our women’s volleyball team also started their season on a hot streak, and UC Davis’ men’s water polo team is ranked among the top 10.

But all of this means more to us than earning trophies. Our primary goal at UC Davis is for all students to be winners in the game of life. Sports are an excellent way to set them up for career success, as values like teamwork and self-motivation are crucial in the workplace. I’m proud that UC Davis provides so many resources for our student-athletes that includes academic advising and exposure to career opportunities.

I hope the Davis community will join me in supporting our student-athletes at upcoming games, matches and other competitions. It’s a fun and low-cost way to entertain the family while rooting for UC Davis teams and our entire city.

With Homecoming Weekend celebrations underway, Aggie Pride is everywhere — on campus, around the city and beyond. I encourage you to come out and watch a game, be it beach volleyball, baseball or football, or any other event that you can get behind. Who knows, another NFL player or WNBA star might be in our midst.

Go Ags!

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column appears first in The Davis Enterprise and then in Dateline UC Davis.

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