Mike “Biggs” Wirta: A Bruin For Life


Mike Wirta

NEWBERG, Ore. – George Fox University didn’t know it back then, but on Dec. 9, 1949, a legend was born. His name was Mike Wirta, better known as “Biggs” around campus, and his tale is one for the ages.In the span of 111-plus seasons of Bruin basketball, Mike has attended and worked 54.6 percent of all games ever played by the George Fox men’s basketball team. He has witnessed 1,240 games out of the 2,267 played – more games than legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski, “Coach K”, has coached at Duke University in 36 seasons (1,196).

To fully appreciate Mike’s story, we must go back to the beginning.

It all began in 1968 after a young Wirta graduated from Newberg High School. On Dec. 12, 1970, he worked his first George Fox home game against Montana Tech sitting in the front row in the old Hester Gym. He didn’t watch the game like a normal fan. Every moment had a meaning as he watched players run up and down the court. He turned passes into assists and baskets into field goals, perfecting the ins and outs of basketball stats to develop an uncanny ability to track games. Three days later, Mike missed a home game due to military service. It would be the last home game he would miss in nearly 43 years. Upon returning to campus, he was a regular at press row and his home game streak began.

It was during his time at George Fox that he was given the nickname “Biggs.” A classmate had shaved Mike’s head completely bald and a friend thought he resembled the cartoon character “Biggie Rat,” which over the years was shortened to “Biggs.’

Mike went on to graduate from George Fox in 1974 and was hired soon after graduation to work for the custodial staff.

In 1985, he started to volunteer his time driving the men’s basketball team to away games. On Dec. 3, 1985, another streak was born, as Mike traveled with the team to Willamette to help keep track of stats for then-coach Mark Vernon.

Before computer statistics, Mike alone could track a basketball game’s statistics with three sheets of paper and several pencils. In fact, the game Mike is most proud of occurred in the late 1980s at St. Martin’s College when the scoreboard broke. The score was consequently kept on chalkboard while time was kept on someone’s stopwatch. Mike sat behind the timekeeper and asked for an update as each Bruin stepped on and off the court. After the game he was able to compute the number of minutes each player played.

In 1998, Mike was inducted into the George Fox Sports Hall of Fame for meritorious service. At that time he had attended 346 consecutive men’s basketball games, home and away. Today, that streak sits at 818 and sadly will stay there, as Mike will no longer travel with the men’s basketball team in the upcoming 2015-16 season. His home streak will stay intact at 683 and will grow to 695 at the end of the year, leaving him to celebrate No. 700 in the 2016-17 season.

When asked about all the games and all the memories, he smiles and says, “This is my home, I have a house, but this is my home.” It’s on the Newberg campus where he spends an average of eight to 12 hours a day. He eats most of his meals on campus and can be seen on the weekends cleaning the facilities after being used for a sporting event.

Dubbed the guru of stats and the historian of the athletic program, Mike can go on and on about any player from any season. “He’s amazing. Every time we sit down to talk about the history of the school it’s a new fact or a new record that’s about to be broken. He knows everything. It’s like having a real-life Siri for George Fox athletics at my fingertips,” said George Fox Sports Information Director Danny Cross.

Biggs’ boundless knowledge and lovable personality is what endears Mike to the George Fox community. He is the most loyal and “Bigg-est” fan in the history of the institution.

“I can’t imagine George Fox athletics without Biggs,” said Director of Athletics Craig Taylor. Between the two of them, Taylor and Biggs combine for nearly a century at George Fox. Since Taylor arrived in 1971 as a forward on the men’s basketball team, he has only ever seen Biggs sitting front row keeping track of all the stats. “He’s a legend, he is the exact definition of what it means to be a Bruin for life,” said Taylor.