Division III Pacific University Gets Back in the Game

By John Rice

In a time when schools and universities are facing budget reductions and even cutting athletic programs, Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR, is preparing to launch a football program in 2010. The decision to field a football team next fall is the result of a four-year investigation approved last month by the school’s Board of Trustees.

“When you are looking at Division III institutions, [the football program] fits in perfectly with the economic situation we are in,” explains Director of Athletics Ken Schumann. “Most Division III schools like us are enrollment-driven. When you have an opportunity to start a program which, over a three-year period, will bring in a hundred or more new students to your institution, that’s something you want to do to make sure you stay fiscally healthy. From an enrollment standpoint, it is a big boost.”

This is not Pacific’s first time on the football field. “Football was a part of our collegiate program for 99 years,” says Schumann. It was discontinued in 1992 because of a number of issues, including a mix of Division II and III schools in the Northwest Conference and “facility issues.”

Schumann is confident that Pacific’s new team will take the field in 2010, but there are financial and facility issues that need to be addressed. “For the startup expense, while we do not have students who are coming into the program that are paying tuition, those startup costs will be funded by outside sources,” he explains. “What we need to do now is make sure we’ve got that money.”

The current athletic facility has space for locker rooms and coaches offices, which will need to be built. And the school has three options of where it will play its games. A local city park, Lincoln Park, has a field that is part of a partnership between the city and the school. “We finished the infrastructure over a year ago. We are in negotiations with the city. That’s our first choice.” Two other fields, including a high school stadium, are other options.

Pacific University currently has 20 other varsity athletic programs. The 2010 Boxer football team will join those programs to compete as Division III members of the Northwest Conference.