CoSIDA 25-Year Award
by Mark Honbo
UC Davis Assistant Director of Athletics Communications
Earlier in his career, Mike Robles joined the UC Davis sports information office, his desk was little more than a former student workstation, situated in a corridor of a repurposed fraternity house. Only a steel bookcase and a fax machine separated him from the door leading to the driveway. He also occupied the only seat within earshot of the house’s lone bathroom, kitchen sink and copier.
And yet in that November 1995 arrival, Robles had found a home for the next 21 years.
In fairness, Robles, who is recipient of a 2020 CoSIDA 25-Year Award, didn’t remain in that location, eventually graduating to the building’s former dining room. Laugh if you must, but it was larger than the athletics director’s office.
Robles now serves as Director of Sports Information and Communication with the California Community College Athletics Association (CCCAA). The CCCAA is a sports association for community colleges in the state, which has 108 – yes, 108 – members and administers the athletic activities of nearly 25,000 student-athletes across 24 men’s and women’s sports across 12 conferences and a wrestling alliance.
In his early years as the right-hand man to then UC Davis assistant director of athletics, and recent CoSIDA Hall of Famer Doug Dull, Robles was part of a two-person shop that oversaw the publicity for a 23-sport program.
As is common in a Division II office, Robles had to learn how to do a little bit of everything. Located in a top-20 media market, UC Davis garners enough interest for the office to serve its public information role, yet the Aggie athletics department is nimble and small enough so no SID can put himself/herself above lugging out the ol’ laptop and printer or hammer out stats during a rainy game.
Robles brought a relatively diverse body of experience: a two-year stint at his alma mater, Cal Poly, followed by an editorial position with Volleyball Monthly magazine and then experiences from a four-year stay at Cuesta College. He also moonlighted as the director of information services for the former American West Conference.
When Dull left for Kansas State in 2000, Robles took over as the head SID and was later tabbed as an assistant AD. He initially oversaw two full-time assistants and later three staffers. The demands of the job also grew at that time, in part because of the rise in the communication age and also due to UC Davis’ transition to Division I. Robles may have been the head of the unit but refused to shy away from work in the trenches.
At some point in his two decades plus at UC Davis, Robles served as the primary SID for baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, football, men’s and women’s golf, women’s rowing, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track & field, men’s water polo, wrestling and women’s volleyball. And while he was blessed with relatively little staff turnover for much of his tenure, Mike also filled in as the primary contact for the two soccer teams and the two swimming & diving teams.
The Statcrew library? Most SIDs have inputted a game or at least served as a spotter. Robles has used every offering except for ice hockey, even taking over the driver’s seat for the more challenging volleyball and lacrosse programs. A surprisingly small number of SIDs can run Hy-Tek Meet Manager for swimming or track, or set up a tournament on Golfstat, and only a smattering have run the FinishLynx timing system. Public address and radio duties helped fill out “other duties as assigned.” Mike has all those skills, too.
“Mike Robles is obviously one of the most skilled people we’ve had in that position,” said Larry Swanson, who served as the associate athletics director for the majority of Robles’ career. “As everyone knows, you need to have knowledge, skills and a feel for a whole lot of sports, and I would put Mike right up at the top of my list of people I’ve worked with during my 40 years in the profession.”
A true marker of Robles’ professional style, and one that certainly serves him well in his current role as Director of Sports Information and Communication with the CCCAA, is his overall friendliness: the clichés of “grin and bear it” and “service with a smile” almost seem to have been written with Robles in mind.
When he assumed the Aggies’ head SID role, a primary goal was to establish a stronger working relationship with the university’s central news service. The two units enjoyed great reciprocity which proved beneficial at critical times for both.
Robles also established outstanding working relationships with his coaches. As most SIDs will agree, the demands of football are great. Robles put a tremendous amount on his plate while still serving as the football SID for 16 of his final 17 UC Davis seasons, and yet gave the UC Davis gridders their proper attention.
“As most SIDs have to be, ‘Robes’ was tireless,” said former head football coach Bob Biggs. “We may not have had all of the resources in the world, but he was always prepared and he covered everything you can imagine that needs to be covered by an SID with the short staff that we had.
“Some people work at their job because it’s a job, and they have to. Other people do it because it’s a passion, and they want to be as good as they can and serve the people as well as they can. Mike fits that mold.”
Swanson also credits Robles for his sense of humor and his “ability to put you at ease,” and added that receiving recognition from CoSIDA is probably not the most comfortable situation for a person who has spent a lifetime turning the spotlight onto others.
“He should take credit as one of the leaders in the media relations area. I would compare him with the top of any program in the nation,” said Swanson. “Without a doubt, Mike is one of most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with, and I would say that about his entire team. There’s no question in my mind that they stretched themselves thin, sacrificed hours, sacrificed weekends and family, in order to put together a product that I was always proud of.
I know people in the media would echo all of those things. Mike is a true professional, and I’m really proud of him.”
CCCAA Director honored by College Sports Information Directors of America
CoSIDA 25-Year Award