Return to the Gridiron

The 2010 football team's coaching staff. (Photo by Heidi Hoffman)

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.

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What Schumann had initially hoped would be a one-year buildup to the start turned into five years. Fundraising for the program progressed at a slow clip, with some alumni skeptical that the plan would become reality. The economic downturn in late 2008 added additional challenges, as did the views of some students and faculty, who felt football did not fit into the fabric of the Pacific experience.

What started as a 17-page business plan in 2005 grew to 82 pages when the Board of Trustees considered the return of the program in spring 2009. The plan not only addressed financial models and start-up costs, but addressed Title IX concerns, effects of class sizes and academic programs, effects to current athletics programs and benefits to the student experience. Three funding options based on potential playing venues: Lincoln Park, Forest Grove High School and Hillsboro Stadium were considered.

At the same time, some important voices rose speaking for the program’s return. Grundon, a former football player who has worked at Pacific since graduating in 1980, became more vocal for the team’s return as did Mike Steele, the longtime English professor who was once part of the coaching staff. In announcing his retirement as president during the 2008 State of the University Address, Creighton boldly proclaimed he wanted to see the program reinstated before his departure the following July.

No voice, however, may have been more significant than that of Pam Ross. While the passing of her son, Eric, was not the reason Pacific football was cut in 1991, many saw it as the final straw. Pam Ross told the Pacific Index student newspaper in May 2009 she wanted to see football back.

On Memorial Day Weekend 2009, the Board voted to reinstate the program for kickoff in 2010. Response to the decision was immediately positive, gaining nationwide media attention and causing a spike in admissions inquiries. Nearly every Portland-area television station covered a press conference in July announcing Buckley’s hiring. By the time he had his coaching staff in place last spring, the problem was not if there would be enough players, but what to do with all of them.

With the recruiting success of the program well beyond expectations, the Boxers are faced with another set of challenges. The first is managing over 100 athletes, all who think they have a chance to start in this first-year program.

“Obviously you can have 11 starters on offense and 11 starters on defense. That’s 22 of the potential 140 we have coming that will run out onto the field at Puget Sound as starters,” Buckley said. “Managing that kind of anticipation and competition is something we will have to work on.”
“There is also the physical space challenge,” Buckley added. “Finding the meeting space and buying more gear has increased the volume. The locker room is officially crowded.”

Schumann is not too concerned about the challenges. He references the football business plan, which has allowed for some growth based on the additional student-athletes. “We have followed the plan step-by-step,” Schumann said. “It’s been a real good blueprint and by following that plan, things have fallen into place quite well. Now we need to tie up the loose ends and make sure we have everything ready to go for the first game.”

Blake Timm ‘98 has served as Pacific University’s sports information director since 1999. He has received numerous awards for his writing and publication design and recently finished a six-year term on the board of directors for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).