Pacific University hosts the University of Chicago in football for the first time on Oct. 26, 2013. There are a number of historic connections between the two schools, particularly in the Stagg family. Dr. Paul Stagg was head coach of the Pacific University Badgers in their heyday, and his father — the famous Amos Alonzo Stagg, long with the University of Chicago — played a role in his development as a coach and with Pacific football.Blake Timm '98 | Sports Information Director
"Although we have a fine nucleus returning for next year we need to have a few new boys enter school that are good players to have a top notch team," he wrote in an early letter to alumni, one of the first "Stagg Letters" that Pacific faithful would see over the next 13 years.
"Since most of these boys graduate at the end of next season we need to have some boys coming along to take their places if we are to continue to stay at the top of the heap. ... It is expected that through the years we may not always win as many games, but I hope that the boys will always play good football and be a credit to the institution."
The alumni did their part and the "Staggmen," as the headline writers nicknamed his teams, kept winning. The 1948 Badgers went 5-3-1 and again finished second in the NWC, beating the likes of Linfield, Willamette and Lewis & Clark in the process (College of Idaho would win the title).
The 1949 team delivered on Stagg's goal of producing a winner. The Badgers went 8-1-1 that year, the only blemishes coming in a 13-13 season-opening tie with Pacific Lutheran and a 13-6 loss to Lewis & Clark. Pacific shared the NWC title with College of Idaho, their third conference crown, and was selected by the conference to play in the Pear Bowl, a small college postseason game played in Medford at what is now called Spiegelberg Stadium. Pacific would defeat UC Davis 33-15 and running back Stan Russell would be selected as an Associated Press Little All-American.
In a Sept. 5, 1950, edition of the Stagg Letter, Paul recognized that it would take some work for the Badgers to repeat as champs with losses to graduation and the Korean War.
"Looking towards our season this year there have been many doubts in my mind. We have a number of new men trying for the various positions. It is too early to tell where they will fit into the picture. From the realistic angle we shouldn't be expected to do anything this year, but as a dark horse, I wouldn't sell us short yet."
Pacific was far from a dark horse that year, finishing with a 7-2 record and tying for second in the NWC with Linfield behind Lewis & Clark's 5-0 league mark. Pacific opened the season 4-0, a feat that would not be repeated until 2013. The Badgers succeeded despite injuries, with Stagg pointing out the absence of "12 so-called regulars" in a 24-0 loss to the Pioneers. And once again, Stagg seemed to be fixated on what could have been in the final Stagg Letter of the year.
"After the first three games we had our discouraging moments, but I was glad we came back as strong as we did. Incidently [sic] it is my experience that injuries come in cycles. I had a large number of injuries in 1934, 1941 and 1950. Nearly all our injuries occurred in games, but it was just our bad luck and not due to the rough play of opponents.
"We broke a tradition this year which I wish we could keep. We lost our first home football game in the four years I have been here. I was afraid that tradition was too good to last."
Dr. Stagg ended that letter with the concern of losing another 14 players to graduation and the prospect of losing more to Korea. In the end, he didn't need to be. Pacific returned to the top of the NWC ledger in 1951, going 8-2 and tying with Lewis & Clark for first in the league at 4-1. The Badgers were voted by the conference to return to the Pear Bowl and a rematch with UC Davis. The Staggmen rebounded from a 7-6 deficit to defeat the Aggies once again, 25-7.