100th Season Begins with High Hopes
After a 19-year absence, Pacific football returns this fall with a new stadium, new field and over 100 players eager to start the University's 100th season.Blake Timm '98
KEITH BUCKLEY didn’t know what to expect when he accepted the challenge of building the new Pacific football program. Accepting the first head coaching assignment of his career, Buckley’s first task would not be coaching players but selling the program to at least 50 prospective students, hoping they would be hungry to be on the ground floor of a new program.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said. “Some days we felt like we could get 100 freshmen. Some days we wondered if we could get 40 freshmen. We just kept plugging away.”
In the end, Buckley was blown away by the response to the new program, which kicked off for the first time in 19 years on Sept. 4 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Back in June, over 100 prospective players had indicated they were coming to Pacific.
When the team’s first practice took place on Aug. 15, nearly 130 players suited up for a chance to start for the Boxers, a phenomenal turnout for a first-year program.
While pleased with what he considers a best-case scenario, Director of Athletics Ken Schumann says he is not surprised by the recruiting success. “When we did our research, we found a number of schools that recruited in excess of 100 student-athletes in the first year,” Schumann said. “Not only do we have great numbers, but the quality of those students in terms of academics is tremendous.”
Pacific’s academic offerings have certainly given the University an attractive option for prospective players, including exercise science, psychology, business and the natural sciences. Many players have also been on track to receive some of Pacific’s top academic scholarship offerings. Of those who attended the University’s Pacesetters scholarship competition in February and March, at least 50 had interest in football.
“I think the kinds of interest areas that our student-athletes are looking for, particularly in football, match up well with our undergraduate programs, especially in terms of the sciences,” said Jeff Grundon ’80, associate director of admissions, who played a
key role in the recruiting process.
With those students now in the Pacific family, it is up to them and Buckley to create a great experience for a program that has had more heartbreak than triumph in its first 99 years.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Pacific football began on Nov. 12, 1892 with an 18-6 win over Bishop Scott Academy of Portland. That first season was just two games, the final being an 18-6 loss to the Multnomah Athletic Club.
The team excelled in its first nine seasons, going 16-5-4. After some thin years and a number of coaching changes, Pacific came back to win the championship between non-conference schools in 1914, with a 3-0 record that included a 61-0 shutout of Lewis & Clark and 21-0
and 47-0 defeats of George Fox.
Another successful string of seasons followed as Pacific joined the Northwest Conference in 1926. But it would take 12 years before the Badgers (as they were known then) would sit atop the league standings. The 1938 Badgers tied Willamette for their first NWC co-championship. Pacific’s 6-0 victory over the Bearcats on Nov. 11 snapped a string of four straight outright titles for Willamette, and ended a 26-game Bearcats’ win streak over conference schools. Pacific won its only outright title in 1939, finishing with a 3-0-2 NWC record.