University considers return of football
When Pacific played its first football game on a muddy field at the north end of campus, electricity was still a novelty and the first basketball game had been played only a few months earlier.
It was Nov. 12, 1892 and the Pacific boys, using a ball and tactics more like rugby than modern American football, defeated a squad from Bishop Scott Academy 18-6. After 99 years of play, the program was dropped following the 1991 season. Now, the University is weighing a return of football. To get to the "end zone" though, will require approval of the University faculty, the Board of Trustees, and some $1.25 million in start-up costs.
The money, said Athletic Director Ken Schumann, would have to come from outside of the University, primarily through donations from alumni and friends. If all goes well, the team could take the field for its 100th season in fall 2009 at Hillsboro Stadium.
Why football? Schumann says a 2004 survey of students, faculty, and staff for the athletics department strategic plan showed football the number one choice of respondents asked which sports they'd like to see added. "The sport of football also fits with the University's strategic growth plans," said Schumann, "and would add a significant number of male students to help balance the male-female enrollment numbers. Also, the sport of football raises the visibility of the athletic program and University like no other program can do."
He added that football has the potential to raise overall school spirit, and is played by almost all local high schools and institutions in the Northwest Conference
"Schools with 'good football' programs have some advantages that for whatever reason don't seem to accrue to schools without them," he said. "Homecomings seem to be able to attract much larger groups of alumni and others when a football game is part of the equation. Some alumni are more willing to donate money and continue to be a part of the university if there is a football program for them to associate with. And lastly, small college football is able to draw larger crowds to games than soccer, basketball, baseball or any other sports. This includes students and faculty and staff. This coming together helps keep school spirit and pride high." However, he said, winning at all costs, including violating recruiting standards and lowering academic standards, is not what Pacific is looking for.
Brian Doherty, a Board member who has pledged financial support for the possible football revival, said his experience as a player at Notre Dame University plays into his enthusiasm for a Pacific team. Long-time Notre Dame President Father Ted Hesberg, he noted, often mentioned all the new academic buildings he was able to build because of the visibility of Notre Dame football.
Though Pacific's situation is quite different, continued Doherty, "Football can be, particularly a highly regarded, ethical, straightforward program, a great asset... it can bring all boats up" and result in attention for teaching, research, and other programs that might not happen otherwise.
Doherty sees the success of Linfield College's football and basketball programs as examples to strive for, programs he said, "That make sure the student-athlete is a student first."
"The return of a football program to Pacific University is in the planning stages and could become a reality," said Pacific President Phil Creighton. "First we have to make sure there is the substantial financial support available for the program's needs. Then, in spite of Pacific's long and respected history of football, we will need to rebuild the program from the ground up. If we decide to go forward, it could mean an added benefit for students and the University, which would be exciting for the campus, alumni, and the community."