Decades of coaching, teaching and service earns Trimmer induction into Chico Sports Hall of Fame – Chico Enterprise-Record

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CHICO — To this day, Richard “Dick” Trimmer prefers that you call him coach.

The title, synonymous with his role as a teacher for more than five decades, is one that he’s carried with him since he took his first job in Boulder, Colorado, fresh out of graduating from University of Northern Colorado.

With his wife, Barbara, and son, Jeff, he arrived at Chico State in 1968, first as head wrestling coach, before taking over the Wildcats’ football program in 1974.

For Trimmer, being a coach and teacher was never about his own accolades or accomplishments. His role, as he picked up from his mentors as a youth, was one of service and encouragement.

“I think I learned a long time ago through my Christian background, and having become stronger in my Christian faith … my job is to serve,” Trimmer said this week. “Serve the community, serve the youth that I’ve worked with. (I) never was really concerned with personal accolades … The reason I went into this profession is because I wanted to work with youth, and I wanted to work with young people in making them better.”

Many of the athletes he guided, many of the students he taught over the years, were shaped in some way from his direction. Some went on to become coaches and teachers themselves. Trimmer, 82, still keeps in touch with a lot of them.

Between his many years of coaching at Chico State, teaching in physical education and kinesiology, later serving as department chair, and continued community service efforts, Trimmer will be inducted into this year’s class for the 47th annual Chico Sports Hall of Fame and Senior Athletes Banquet, which is sponsored by the Chico Enterprise-Record and the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.

“His impact, it’s hard to quantify, but I know in reality how many people he really affected in a positive way,” said Steve Hall, a former Chico State defensive back who was part of Trimmer’s first recruiting class as head football coach. “He always did things the right way. There were no shortcuts. It was hard work.”

Trimmer is one of three inductees for this year’s Hall of Fame class, along with Brett Silva and Joy (Jackson) Jones.

The banquet also honors the top senior athletes from area high schools, the top sophomores from Butte College and Chico State’s top senior athletes.

The event also features the announcement of the Chico Sportsperson of the Year. The banquet is Tuesday, May 7, at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds commercial building. No-host cocktails begin at 6 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m.

Tickets to the event are on sale for $35 each from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the E-R office, 400 E. Park Ave. in Chico. Tickets will be $45 after May 3, and ticket sales will be cut off at noon the day before the event on Monday, May 6. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Awards for the winning athletes and Hall of Fame recipients will be provided by Jimmy’s Trophies of Oroville.

Well before Trimmer became a coach, he learned from those who guided him during his youth in Colorado — first in Las Animas — and later Pueblo, where he moved with his family in eighth grade.

In sixth grade, Trimmer was invited to join a local junior high school football program with kids one and two years older than him. Trimmer estimated he was 5-foot-5, 170 pounds at the time, an ideal size for a lineman and heavyweight wrestler. Even more so, when he grew to 6-foot-1 over the following few years.

Growing up in the 1940s and into the ’50s, nearly all of Trimmer’s coaches were World War II veterans, and in his words, “they didn’t cut you much slack.”

But Trimmer responded well to their tough-nosed ways. He later molded it into his own style of coaching.

“No matter how tough they made it, I wasn’t going to quit,” Trimmer said.

“And when somebody told me … I wasn’t going to amount to anything, that made me mad and that was another motivating thing. Some people, when you tell them they’re not going to amount to anything, they crawl back in their shell. And a lot of people say, ‘Well I’ll show you.’”

Consider Trimmer part of the latter group.

After graduating from Centennial High, he went on to wrestle and play football at Northern Colorado in Greeley. As an offensive and defensive lineman, he was named a Rocky Mountain Conference all-league recipient three times, and as a heavyweight wrestler, twice won the conference championship.

He double majored in physical education and math, and after graduating, took his first job at Boulder High as an assistant wrestling and football coach. He then moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to coach and teach at Central High for six years.

For a while, it seemed as if he and his wife were going lay down roots there. They stayed for seven years, and during the final year, had their son, Jeff. It was also during this time that Trimmer ran into a Phoenix coaching colleague at a track meet.

Jerry Waugh had just taken the Chico State men’s basketball head coaching job. When the two ran into each other, Trimmer casually mentioned to Waugh that if the university was in need of a wrestling or football coach, he was available.

Two weeks later, Trimmer got a phone call from Chico State. They wanted to interview him for the head wrestling and assistant football coach vacancies, in addition to a faculty position in the physical education department.

While the family was settled in Phoenix, the opportunity to make the jump from high school to college was too good to pass up. The Trimmers were headed to Chico.

“It was difficult for my wife, and it was hard to leave,” Trimmer said. “We had some great wrestling success and great success in football. And left some great memories down there.”

Trimmer’s arrival at Chico State coincided with a successful run in both football and wrestling. The 1970 wrestling team won the Far Western Conference title, and finished 12th at the NCAA Championships, led by guys like Evan Weir, Doug Dressler and John Norris.

And in 1971, the football team, led by head coach Pete Riehlman, had arguably its most memorable season in program history. The Wildcats finished 9-2, as co-champions of the FWC, and played in the Camellia Bowl, losing a 32-28 decision to Boise State.

Trimmer, who coached the defensive linemen and linebackers, shared the same hard-working philosophy as Riehlman: “You may beat us, but you’re not going to outwork us.”

Sure, he was tough, but the players were better because of it, and became closer.

Every Monday night at Trimmer’s house, Barbara Trimmer, after teaching first graders at Partridge Elementary all day, would come home and make a steak dinner for the most outstanding players of the week.

“I thought it was a pretty important aspect of the whole thing,” said Tom Aldridge, a Wildcats defensive tackle from 1970 to 1972, of the weekly gathering. “Most of these kids that come into Chico State playing football, they were from all over the place. To bring them together and get that closeness … that’s kind of showed itself over the years.

“It was the entire coaching staff, but Dick was very much part of that — just bringing everybody together and making them feel like family.”

Trimmer’s guidance extended beyond their playing days. When he took over for Riehlman as head coach in 1974, several players got their start in coaching as graduate assistants on his staff.

That was true of Aldridge, who went on to coach and teach at Oroville High for more than three decades. Same for Craig Rigsbee, the current athletic director and former head football coach at nearby Butte College. Likewise for Hall, who got his first coaching job at Chaffey College on Trimmer’s recommendation.

“He made the decisions … which the head coach does,” Hall said, “but even for a young guy like me, he would listen to us and he would give us direction.”

But in 1983, Chico State decided to go on a different direction. Trimmer was asked to resign, and he exited quietly. He finished with a career head coaching record of 48-52-2 during a nine-year stretch when UC Davis captured every FWC title.

Mike Bellotti succeeded Trimmer as head coach, then left in 1988 to become offensive coordinator at Oregon and five years later, head coach. Gary Houser, a former defensive coordinator under Trimmer and Bellotti, took the helm at Chico State until the program was cut in 1997.

“When they said, ‘we’d like you to resign,’ I didn’t fight it,” Trimmer said. “I don’t think it would’ve done any good to fight it.”

However, Trimmer’s timing turned out to be perfect. He was able to watch his son, then a sophomore at Pleasant Valley, at nearly all of his high school football games, into college when Jeff attended UC Davis. And he had more time to spend with Barbara, his wife of nearly 60 years.

“The major reason for the success I’ve had, just like any successful person, is their wife,” Trimmer said.

“She paid a tremendous price … The basic regret that I had is that I didn’t spend more time during the seasons with my family. That’s a universal problem for coaches.”

Even after his retirement from the physical education department, he’s remained busy. Just two weeks after he retired in 2002, he began working as a fundraiser for the Butte County Special Olympics. He also spent years with the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for many years, even serving as the association’s president from 1996 to 1997.

He still remains involved with the Chico Breakfast Lions Club, and is a representative for the Lions All-Star football game south team.

“His goal in life was to be a good, Christian man and to help people in anyway he could,” Hall said. “That exemplified itself all the way through his career and even now in his retirement.”

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