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
It would be another 10 years before the Badgers climbed to the top of the standings again, this time led by the son of one of the inventors of the modern game. Dr. Paul Stagg came to the University in 1947 as head football coach and director of athletics. He had apprenticed under his father, Amos Alonzo Stagg, the “Father of Modern Football,” at both University of Chicago and University of the Pacific before arriving in Forest Grove. Even in his advanced years, the elder Stagg helped Paul conduct practices early in his son’s tenure.
The influence of the Staggs, just two years removed from the stoppage of play due to World War II, was immediately felt. The 1947 Badgers went 6-2 and in 1949 claimed a tie for the NWC title with an 8-1-1 record. The team was invited to play in the Pear Bowl in Medford, Ore., pitting the champions of two of the west’s small college conferences, and triumphed 33-15 over UC Davis at what is now Spiegelberg Stadium.
In his first six seasons at the University, Paul Stagg never lost more than three games in a year. The 1951 and 1952 teams both earned shares of the conference crown, with the 1952 Badgers going 7-0-1. The 1951 team returned to the Pear Bowl and recorded a 25-7 victory in a rematch with UC Davis. However, Stagg fell on lean times in the latter part of his Pacific career, going 24-41-3 over his last eight seasons, with a lone winning season coming in his final year as Pacific’s head football coach.
After Stagg left, some of the winning magic seemed to go with him. In the final 30 years of the program, Pacific experienced just four more winning seasons. Coach Frank Buckiewicz brought the Boxers closest to another title in 1972, as they steamrolled many of their opponents on their way to an 8-1 mark. Longtime arch-nemesis Linfield kept Pacific from its fifth NWC title, winning 27-7 in the opening game of the conference schedule.
The beginning of the end of the Pacific program likely came in 1985, when the Northwest’s two NAIA conferences came together to form a small college super-conference. The new alignment presented a set of challenges for Pacific, which historically had problems attracting enough talented athletes to remain competitive. The Boxers were now recruiting against state schools, with lower tuition and more money to attract top players. While the Northwest Conference schools gave talent awards to students with athletic ability based on financial need, the state schools could give scholarships not tied to financial aid.
“It was not a level playing field,” said Schumann, who started as Pacific’s sports information director in 1986. “You had state institutions who were able to help students with…more financial aid and...they also had much better facilities than what we could provide at the time.”
In addition, football was becoming more costly right at a time when
the University found itself cash-strapped. The program took up one-third of the athletic department budget, leaving many of the remaining 13 programs scraping for equipment, travel and facilities.
The University did the best it could, but often the competitive imbalance proved too much. The school’s last winning record came in 1987, with the Boxers going 4-3-2, fifth in the Columbia Football Association’s Mt. Hood League with a team of primarily junior college transfers.