Approximately 10% of the University of Portland’s 3,000 or so students are athletes. That’s a high percentage for a school that offers scholarships, but it’s nothing compared to Division III schools that use athletics as a recruiting tool.
In Forest Grove, more than one-third of Pacific’s undergraduates are athletes. Over his six-year tenure as AD, Ken Schumann has doubled the number of student athletes at Pacific and more than doubled the number of full-time coaches. He expects the growth to accelerate now that football has returned.
So far the revived football program at Pacific has been exceeding Schumann’s expectations. The Boxers had planned to play eight games but recently added a ninth due to all the excitement. “We will sell out every game this year,” Schumann predicts. “We’re going to take our lumps in the beginning because we do have a lot of freshmen. But I think we’ll surprise some people on the field.”
On the business side, Pacific already has surprised some people, and other institutions are taking notice. George Fox University, a similarly sized Christian school in Newberg, plans to restart its football program in 2013.
George Fox fielded a football team from 1894 to 1968 but dropped it when the team could no longer compete. Bringing back football after a 42-year absence is a point of pride to University President Robin Baker, and a smart business decision. Like Pacific, George Fox has fairly steep tuition ($36,000 including room and board) and women make up 62% of students. By restarting football, “we’ll draw around 75 new students who are men who will pay to be a part of George Fox University and to play football here,” says Baker. “It makes perfect financial sense.”
George Fox already has started building a $6.5 million sports complex with lacrosse and soccer fields as well as a 1,200-seat football stadium. The university will hire a coaching staff to rebuild the team from scratch and is looking forward to its largest incoming freshmen class ever in the fall of 2013 — if not by number of students then certainly by weight.