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Disinformation is at work in Pacific University athletics

ClockI began teaching and coaching at Pacific University in 1967, following the completion of a doctorate in mathematics at Oklahoma State University. This was preceded by a couple of great athletic experiences at Newberg High School and Lewis & Clark College, and brief coaching experiences at Sunset High School (football and wrestling) and Lewis & Clark (wrestling).

The main reason I am concerned with quality opportunities in sports is because of the tremendous impact those experiences had on me as a young man. I was extremely fortunate to have two outstanding coaches in my athletic life. I was also an observer when Oklahoma State had perhaps the greatest college wrestling teams/coaches ever.

Fortunately, I began my tenure at Pacific during a period when the university had some excellent leadership in athletics (Dan French, Frank Buckiewicz, Chad Yowell). We did not have any money, but we were rich in dreams. The leaders were open, honest, frugal and hardworking. We had peripheral people, like George Horner, who made it possible for us to host the Northwest Conference (NWC) wrestling championships (1969) when we had no gym. George and several others stepped up again when we won the bid to host the NAIA wrestling tournament (1982) — with an undersized gym in a small community.

For the record, I remember some very successful track and field squads in the early 1970s, before we even had a track of our own! I believe over half of the current men’s records were set then. Chuck Bafaro’s baseball teams won three NWC titles in the 1970s and were always in the hunt. Volleyball won two NWC titles in the early 1980s. The women’s softball teams of that era won seven consecutive NWC titles. David Olmstead and his women’s basketball teams won the Northwest Conference four consecutive years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We had some tremendous young men involved in wrestling who won 16 consecutive NWC team titles and had some outstanding performances at the national level. All the young people who were part of those teams built some lifetime memories and learned to recognize the relationship between dreams, work and success.

Contrast the foregoing with the fact that Pacific has won only five NWC team titles (thank goodness for four in women’s golf!) in the last 15 years out of 270 titles awarded to the nine colleges. In the NWC All-Sports competition, the university has finished in the bottom three spots every year with almost half of those being last.

In my later years at Pacific, I included a section in my statistics classes on how to lie with statistics, so students would be aware of the power of data (and words) to distort what really happened. Reading the athletic summaries from the university in the last 15 years, it is clear disinformation is at work.

The university undoubtedly spends lots more money per participant than in years past, and it produces far fewer memorable experiences for young people. This is not a condemnation of any particular coach, but does suggest a serious lack of integrity and leadership in athletics, with the real “losers” being the young people who could have had a life-changing experience via sports. Undoubtedly this is something that is ultimately reflected in student recruitment and alumni donations.

It is no great surprise that those whose salaries and budgets are controlled by the administration would be somewhat silent on this matter.

Nobody said change was going to be painless, just worth it!

Mike Clock is emeritus professor of mathematics at Pacific University. He coached the men’s wrestling team from 1967 to 1988 and then served as an assistant coach until he retired in 2002.



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