San Francisco - On Thursday evening at the Presidio Officers' Club in San Francisco, the University of the Pacific celebrated its deep football tradition and lineage with a panel discussion that highlighted those from the University that took part in the most prestigious event in the sport: The Super Bowl. With the golden anniversary of the game set for the pristine Bay Area stage of Santa Clara’s Levi's Stadium next Sunday, Pacific greats took to the City by the Bay for an evening of reflection on the impact that the university has had on The Big Game, with an eye on the continuing role that Pacific has on the highest level of the game of football.
Tom Flores, Bob Lee, Dante Scarnecchia and Greg Robinson all took to the stage for an inside look at how the formative years as Tigers provided a pathway to the status of Super Bowl legend.
A constant theme throughout the night was the connections and family atmosphere that was evident throughout the Stockton experience. Dante Scarnecchia, most recently of the Patriots coaching staff, explained that Pacific head coach Chester Caddas gave him a chance to break into the coaching ranks, opening up doors to a career that included a role serving as the offensive line coach for Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Scarnecchia noted “He gave me my first full-time coaching opportunity. I'm forever indebted to Coach Caddas.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Flores, Lee and Greg Robinson, who spoke of graduate assistantships and part-time coaching gigs that had meager salaries, but led to opportunities to expand their careers into major college football jobs and NFL posts. Flores noted the transition from a small Central Valley high school to the intimate environment at Pacific was helpful for his development into a successful player and coach.
Flores joked, "I think the entire student body of Pacific back then would fit in this room tonight."
In a testament to the university’s role in the early history of the game, Pacific alums Bob Lee and Tom Flores opined on facing off with each other at Super Bowl IV in New Orleans, with Flores’ Chiefs coming up victorious at Tulane Stadium over Lee’s Vikings. Flores served as a backup quarterback for the Chiefs in the contest while Lee was the punter and backup quarterback for Minnesota.
The pair described how much the Super Bowl has changed; noting that the fourth annual game was played at an outdoor stadium, in sloppy conditions with only a week off after the conference title games. The innovations and technology that have led to the mega-celebration that the game has become were but a distant future on a miserable night in Louisiana, with a tornado watch looming before kickoff and frigid temperatures hampering practices throughout the week.
With an eye towards Sunday’s game, each participant was asked for their Super Bowl pick, with Lee and Flores choosing the Panthers while Robinson stayed loyal to the Broncos franchise he helped to titles in 1997 and 1998.
In closing, Athletic Director Ted Leland praised Pacific's history and tradition on the gridiron and spoke on how the program left a legacy that has been embodied by the current department, pointing to the four pillars of balance, family, innovation and winning spirit and how those on stage were able to advance each in their lives and careers.
As the Super Bowl returns to the Bay Area for the first time since 1985, the night served as a perfect kickoff to the festivities and a gentle reminder that a small university in Stockton, Calif. has a wide-arching impact on the past, present and future of the National Football League.
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