Linfield alumnus coach Chris Casey announced at a press conference his new position as the head coach of George Fox University’s newly revived football program, which is set to kick off in fall 2014 as part of the NCAA Division III and Northwest Conference after a 45 year hiatus of the sport.
Casey, who is currently the coach for Aloha High School football, will finish one more season with the team this fall before his transition to George Fox.
“It’s a win-win deal to be able to coach my last year at Aloha and take the job at George Fox, I couldn’t ask for a better situation as a coach,” Casey said in a “Bald-Faced Truth” radio show interview with John Canzano, sports columnist for The Oregonian.
The transition will be a return home for Casey, as the Newberg local is no stranger to the Bruins’ campus.
“My brother and I were ball boys for the baseball and the last football team. We literally grew up on campus,” said Casey in a phone interview.
All seven children of the Casey family were born in Newberg and many family members, including his parents, still live there. Casey’s brother, George Fox alum Pat Casey, served as the Bruins’ head baseball coach before leaving to coach OSU baseball while another brother serves as Newberg’s police chief.
Casey was a four-sport student athlete at Newberg High School. Graduating with the class of ’76, he went on to play for Mt. Hood Community College during the ’76 and ’77 seasons and began his Linfield career in 1978. Although a shoulder injury and surgery made ’78 and ‘79 red shirt years for Casey, he returned to play the defensive side of the ball as a strong safety in ’80 and ’81.
After graduating from Linfield, he went on to coach at Dalles High School before returning to his alma mater as an assistant football coach, recruiting coordinator and baseball coach from 1985-94.
Casey then took his experience to Whitworth in Spokane, Wash., to serve as an assistant football coach until 2004.
When Casey played as a Wildcat, defense coordinator Mike Riley (1977-82) and head coach Ad Rutschman gave Casey what he described as “a very positive experience.” Casey remarked that his attraction to small college teams prevails in their value of athletics.
“My coaching philosophy and mentorship come from coach Rutschman. He is such a moral, ethical person and very successful on top of it,” Casey said in a phone interview.
In addition to his time working with coach Rutschman, Casey’s ties to the community were some of the strong considerations for George Fox Athletic Director Craig Taylor.
“GFU and the Casey family go back a long way,” Taylor said in a phone interview.
“Chris is a person of very strong faith, I think there’s a real strong connection.”
Reportedly, a number upward of 80 candidates showed interest in the position, but Taylor was drawn to Casey’s football traditions.
“Chris rose to the top of a very strong candidate pool for a variety of reasons,” Taylor said.
With a total of 30 years as a player and coach, and 22 years in the NWC, Casey’s experience in the football community is extensive. His “play to excellence” attitude has earned him a reputation that has been widely recognized.
Casey was titled 6A Coach of the year in 2010, as he guided the once struggling football program of Aloha to the Oregon High School Class 6A Championship; a story that Taylor calls “amazing.”
Aloha wasn’t the only down-and-out program Casey invested in. During his 10 years coaching at Whitworth, he brought the team to a league title after it had been falling flat in the conference.
“Wherever he’s been, the program has risen,” Taylor said.
Casey plans to do the same with the revival of the Bruins football program, fully aware of the challenges ahead.
“We have to develop an identity, develop tradition and player leadership, those things are all going to take time,” Casey said.
“It’s not the challenge, but how you approach the challenge,” he said.
Chrissy Shane/Staff writer
Chrissy Shane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.