By Frank MacDonald

"Anyone who knows anything about SPU athletics can only be inspired by these remarkably dedicated coaches and athletes," said Tom Box when he was appointed the University's new athletic director.

A few years ago, a noted Seattle sports columnist referred to Seattle Pacific University basketball as the community's "best-kept secret." It was a compliment -- and a reminder to Puget Sound area sports fans that there's more on the menu than just pro teams or the collegians across town wearing purple and gold.

Tom Box, the Falcons' new athletic director, believes the secret's out. In fact, he's excited about the outstanding accomplishments of SPU coaches and those clad in maroon and white. But he envisions a day in the not-too-distant future when things will be even better in terms of facilities, financial resources and community support.

Box has been quick to grasp the illustrious history of the Falcons, to identify trouble spots, and to articulate his vision of Seattle Pacific athletics -- principally because he has always been a fan. In fact, Box, the University's director of development for the past nine years, barely needed five minutes to walk from his old office to his new one in Brougham Pavilion. Once there in July, he says he felt very much at home, but "humbled."

"Anyone who knows anything about SPU athletics can only be inspired by these remarkably dedicated coaches and athletes," said Box upon his appointment. "That's why I can't wait to join the team."

The Falcons have long been one of the nation's most respected NCAA Division II programs. Together, men's soccer and women's gymnastics have won eight national championships. Track and field has produced hundreds of All-Americans and individual champions. And within this decade, both men's and women's basketball have asserted themselves as regular NCAA playoff participants.

Balancing that success has been similar achievement in the classroom. There have been twelve Academic All-Americans in the last five years, and since 1980 nine men and women have won prestigious NCAA postgraduate scholarships.

The Falcon story is one of amazing feats accomplished against the odds. "Each of our teams share the goal of being perennial national Division II contenders," says Box. "However, it is growing increasingly competitive in all sports. To this point, we've largely done it with a practically superhuman coaching staff, and exceptional young men and women athletes."

Outside funding will be necessary for SPU to gain scholarship parity with its conference rivals, and for the Falcons to achieve gender equity under Title IX federal guidelines, says Box. "Just to maintain this level of excellence, let alone rise to the next level, we need to promote our teams aggressively in the community, and form partnerships with businesses who wish to become athletic sponsors.

"We want to invite individual donors who are interested and capable of financially supporting our teams to get together with our other boosters. And I see a reinvigorated Falcon Club that will become more actively involved with our programs."

Box is confident that his vision can become a reality. The reason: A quality product is already in place. Athletics is one of the most visible arms of the University, with thousands of column inches detailing the Falcons' successes in the press. And Seattle Pacific sports have become synonymous with the integrity of the coaches and the contributions of balanced student-athletes.

Box plans to build on SPU's commitment to a positive relationship with the community. "Our coaches and athletes are outstanding communicators, with tremendous potential to motivate youngsters and adults alike," he says.

"Inviting the community to embrace our teams is also vital to our plans. We offer an outstanding package: talented athletes playing in beautiful facilities with easy parking, and all for a minimal price. What a great way for families to spend an evening together!"

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