Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

74°F

Portland

Partly Cloudy

Humidity: 46%

Wind: 9 mph

  • 2 Sep 2014

    Mostly Sunny 76°F 56°F

  • 3 Sep 2014

    AM Clouds/PM Sun 75°F 54°F


Casey prepares to breathe new life into George Fox gridiron

by: COURTESY OF GEORGE FOX UNIVERSITY - New coach Chris Casey is getting ready for the George Fox Bruins first football season since 1968. The modern era for GFU begins Sept. 6 with a home game against Arizona Christian.NEWBERG — The view from Chris Casey’s office at Duke Athletic Center on the George Fox campus is spectacular.

Especially if you’re a football coach.

Casey looks down at construction crews putting together the new football field that will be the home of the Bruins when they play host to Arizona Christian on Sept. 6.

It will be the first football game for George Fox since the school dropped its program in 1968.

“I’m excited,” Casey says. “We’re all excited.”

A $7.2 million project has funded the Duke Center — which houses the Bruins’ football and track and field coaching staffs — and stadium that will renew the long dormant grid program.

George Fox football brings back warm memories for Casey, 56, a Newberg native, one of seven children of Fred and Bev Casey. The Caseys are woven into the fabric of the community. Chris’ parents still live there, as do his three sisters. Brother Brian is the police chief. Brother Tim is a deputy sheriff, running for Yamhill County sheriff.

“I always tell those guys, ‘You run the jail, but you oughta be in jail,’” Chris jokes.

The only defector is brother Pat, 12 months younger than Chris, the esteemed baseball coach at Oregon State who spent his first seven years as a head coach at George Fox.

“We grew up two blocks from here,” Chris says. “Pat and I were unofficial ballboys on the last George Fox football team in 1968. All seven of us kids grew up playing down here.”

That made it easier for Casey to give up his job as teacher and head football coach at Aloha High. Casey took over a moribund Aloha program and led the Warriors to the state playoffs in the last four of his nine years there, winning the state 6A championship in 2010.

“I have a love affair with the Aloha community and the people there,” Casey says. “I always will. But I have roots here. I played in the Northwest Conference (at Linfield). I coached in the Northwest Conference (as an assistant at Linfield and Whitworth).

“I like the challenge of starting something brand-new. I like to test myself, not limit myself. And this is a great situation, competing in as good (an NCAA) Division III conference as there is in the country.”

Casey was hired in the spring of 2012 but didn’t start on the job until January 2013. The first order of business was to assemble a coaching staff. Each of his assistants has ties to Casey, either through his time at Linfield, his tenure at Whitworth or the years he spent at Aloha.

Ken Ingram, who coached Hillsboro to the state 5A title in 2009, will serve as offensive coordinator. John Bates, who played for and coached with Casey at Whitworth and then coached with him at Aloha, is defensive coordinator. The other assistants are Ian Sanders (special teams, linebackers), Gabe Haberly (quarterbacks), Torey Smith (running backs) and Patrick Prince (tight ends).

“The two most important things are coaching staff and recruiting,” Casey says.

Casey got on the latter endeavor almost immediately, using a “zero-year” recruiting strategy. The Bruins opted not to play the 2013 season, instead working to build a roster and let the players have a year together on campus. The Bruins held workouts — with helmets, no pads — during the fall and workouts without helmets or gear during the spring.

About 10 athletes already were on campus. Casey brought in 67 freshmen for this school year and wound up practicing with about 50 players during the spring.

“They got a chance to be together a whole year — a year devoted to physical development and conditioning, implementing our system, team chemistry and camaraderie,” Casey says. “It went super. Even with no junior/senior leadership, no identity, no role modeling, it was really neat to see the kids grow and make the tremendous improvements they made in the spring.”

How did Casey sell the program to kids who would have to go a year without playing

a game?

“First of all, the college is a great sell,” he says. “It’s the best place I’ve ever been for people, for a family atmosphere, for respect, care, concern and friendliness. It’s a tremendous school academically, one of the best small private schools in the nation. We’ve had great success in sports — national champions in baseball in 2004 and women’s basketball in 2009, a great track program ... and we have respect in the Northwest as a staff. People trust us; they know us.

“We’ve found kids who want to be part of this challenge. We want guys to be part of this competitive commitment, to take on something big.”

by: COURTESY OF GEORGE FOX UNIVERSITY - Chris Casey, new coach of George Fox University's restored football program, expects to have 60 freshmen boost his training camp number to more than 100 players when the Bruins begin drills on Aug. 14.Casey expects to add another 60 freshmen when training camp starts on Aug. 14, meaning he’ll begin with a group of at least 100 and as many as 130 — all but 10 first-year players at the college level.

The 2014 schedule is difficult. After games against NAIA Arizona Christian — which also is starting its program — and LaVerne (Calif.), George Fox has games at Willamette and Linfield. Later there is a road date at Pacific Lutheran. The latter three opponents were the top three NWC teams last season, compiling a combined record of 26-5.

Can the Bruins be competitive right away?

“We’re going to be excellent,” Casey says. “What I mean by that is, for our level of experience, maturity and the implemention of our system, I expect us to be excellent to that point and nothing less.

“We don’t want to be competitive. We want to be champions. Our goal is to win the Northwest Conference. Our goal is always going to be to play at a championship level. I can’t tell you when and if those things will happen, but our goal is to be excellent. How far that takes us each year is where we’re at that year.”

The seeds are being planted. Casey has been in his new office for only a month. The new stadium, replete with video board and FieldTurf, is expected to be completed by the end of July.

Football is making a resurgence at the small-college level in the Northwest. Pacific restarted its program in 2010. College of Idaho is restoring its program this fall. College presidents realize it’s a way to add numbers to the student body. Plus, it adds pride in a college community, turning several Saturday afternoons in the fall into a gathering place.

George Fox couldn’t have turned to a better coach to get football going again than Casey, a man of character who knows better than most how to go about building a program. Watch out for the Bruins. They’re likely to be a force to be reckoned with, probably sooner than later.