Character, cohesion, community and competitiveness. Those are the four character pillars head football coach Kieth Buckley built the football program on when he was hired six years ago and the pillars he said remain his focus today.
With the reputation of athletics teams, particularly football teams, being questioned in the media across the country Athletic Director Ken Schumann and Buckley spoke to the strides Pacific athletics has made to set the student athletes here apart.
Schumann said when the administration decided to bring football back to campus he wanted to make sure football had a strong focus on ethics and character building and that the coaching staff reflected that.
Buckley hit the ground running and has not let up on his commitment to holding the football team to high standards since.
He has served on gender equity panels, been a part of social justice retreats, received training
to be a sexual misconduct officer and held regular educational trainings around sexual misconduct and general health and accountability for his team.
Buckley and his coaching staff have built annual trainings from campus wellness and other officials around sexual misconduct into the football training camp schedule as a supplement to the educational events held by the athletic administration.
“With today’s climate and as someone who has daughters, educating my players on sexual misconduct and consent is a necessity that is very important to me,” Buckley said.
Buckley also holds mandatory study sessions for all of his freshman players and makes it a priority to personally be there.The athletic department as a whole holds an annual educational event every year that all student- athletes are required to attend. The topics of the events range from consent to alcohol awareness to appropriate social media behavior. Schumann said it also encourages that coaches have additional educational conversations and events with their athletes.
“We want to make sure our athletes are equipped with life skills,” Schumann said. “I can confidently say no other school out there does more than we do educationally.
Speaking in general terms to disciplinary proceedings within the athletic department, Schumann said that the Athletic Department will often conduct separate investigations in addition to the student conduct investigations and decide on specific athletic consequences, depending on the severity of the violation. Buckley said one of his main rules on the football team is being accountable for mistakes.
“My expectation is that I hear from the players before I hear from anyone else that a conduct issue has occurred,” Buckley said. “If something has happened, the athletes need to be man enough to come into my office and own up to having messed up.”
Schumann added that a lot of the fuel for the stereotype that athletics contain more sexual violence comes from high profile Division I stories and that Division III athletics has a much stronger focus on individual character and prioritizing being a student first.
“Our goal is to help our players develop into great fathers and husbands,” Buckley said. “I consider the real success when I hear from former players who are having children or getting married or doing well. It’s about their personal success.”