Q & A with Ken Schumann, Director of Athletics

A member of the Pacific University Athletic Department since 1985, Ken Schumann was named director of athletics in May. He spent the last 13 seasons as the Boxers’ head men’s basketball coach, leading the team to a Northwest Conference championship in 1997 and national tournament appearances in 1997 and 2000. In addition to coaching, he has served Pacific as an assistant coach, sports information director, and associate athletic director.

What challenges have you encountered in your first year as athletic director?

Changing the mindset of our coaches, staff, and student-athletes to expect success. Unfortunately, we have been in a culture when we haven’t had the resources to be successful. We are going to work hard and position our programs to be successful in the future. The athletics department has implemented some programs that are new, like Boxer Club. Anytime you do something like that it’s a challenge. Fortunately it has had a great response from alumni. We have some significant projects we are in the process of securing funding for, and anytime you are attempting to put these types of projects together, you have hard work and challenges.

What does it mean to be able to lead a program that you have been part of for so long?

I feel honored to have the opportunity to guide this program for many years ahead. Being here for as long as I have, you take extra value in what happens. I took pride in a lot of things we did in the basketball program, many which had not been done before at Pacific. I want to do the same things in leading the department and having it move forward.

You have talked about Pacific athletics entering a new “Era of Excellence.” What does this mean?

We have the opportunity over the next several years to build our program into one that is competitive in the Northwest Conference, top to bottom. We want to be excellent in everything we do, from promoting our student-athletes’ academic successes to recruiting top quality student-athletes to providing the best in coaching and facilities. We want everything we do to be first rate. That is going to be what I work on over the next several years, to put us in a position to carry on what I call the “Era of Excellence.”

How do you accomplish that?

There are many components that are going to allow us to achieve this success. First, there is a direct relationship between resources and success. Across the country, well over 70 percent of the successful programs have sufficient levels of funding compared to their competition. Making sure our programs are funded at an adequate level is one of the top priorities in achieving success and excellence. The second is that we staff our programs efficiently. Our ratio of part-time coaches has been higher than that of our sister schools. We need to change that. We need to build infrastructure. We have been operating a track and field program without a facility for practice or competition, and we hope to fix that with the building of the Cedar Street Athletic Complex. We are working to enhance facilities and our infrastructure so we can provide venues that are equivalent to what we see from our conference competitors. We not only want to increase our student numbers, which will allow us to be more competitive in many sports, but also increase the quality of our student-athletes.

The Cedar Street Athletic Complex is a major part of the athletic department’s strategic plan. What is the timeline for the project and how will it benefit Pacific’s athletes?

The timeline depends on how successful we are in securing the funding. I am optimistic that we can begin this spring. We want to have that project completed as soon as possible. Cedar Street directly affects eight programs. The opportunities that this facility will provide are tremendous. It’s going to open up new possibilities for our programs, enhance our ability to recruit outstanding student-athletes, and enhance the experience of our student-athletes who are here now.

After Cedar Street, what other facility needs are there?

Other facility priorities are enhancement of Bond Field, which is used for our baseball program, and building a new tennis facility. We have been continuing to update Pacific Athletic Center as well for the indoor athletic programs.

There is a buzz about the possible return of football to Pacific. Where does that stand and why is it being considered?

Our students and alumni have been clear regarding their support of bringing football back. As part of the athletics department strategic plan, we did a survey and asked what were the sport programs that students and staff would like to see added. Football and lacrosse received the largest response. We have brought lacrosse on and I am hopeful that we will be able to bring football on in the future. Football has a long history at Pacific. The program was discontinued in 1992 after 99 years. I would like to see its return, and I think that would be good for our athletic program and great for the University. We have an opportunity to do it differently at Pacific than how it was done in the past. We have the opportunity to do it the right way, by bringing on coaches who will bring in top quality student-athletes. I want to emphasize the student there as well, because research has shown that you can have a football program with students who are of the highest quality academically. Football will also raise the level of spirit on campus and bring more male student-athletes to Pacific. As far as progress, we are moving slowly and steadily. President Phil Creighton has indicated that funding needs to come from outside the University, and we need to secure the approval of the University faculty and Board of Trustees before we can move forward in implementing the return of the football program.

Women’s lacrosse will begin in spring 2007. What kind of interest is there in lacrosse at Pacific?

The sport has great growth and potential on the West Coast. It has shown tremendous growth in high schools in Oregon over the last five to seven years, and it is big on the East Coast. When we did the athletics department strategic planning, the committee identified lacrosse as a program that has a high level of interest with our students. It’s going to be a program that in three to five years will be a championship program within the Northwest Conference. Many of our conference schools have lacrosse either as a varsity program or as a club program. By adding women’s lacrosse, it is going to encourage some of those schools who have it as a club program to elevate it to a varsity program. As the sport continues to grow at the high school and youth levels, it will provide Pacific University with an opportunity to attract outstanding student-athletes.

How different is it to not be coaching basketball after doing it for so many years?

When you are doing something you enjoy for 25 years and then you are no longer doing it, it always hits you. I was not in the gym on Oct. 15 when practice started, and it was a bit of a change. I knew, however, that if I were to be the director of athletics and to do this job the way it needs to be done, I would not be able to do both. I am excited. This position is an opportunity to impact all Pacific athletic programs and student-athletes in a positive way and I look forward to that.

Photo: Ken Schumann