During a recent chapel service, the strong voice of former PCC Eagles basketball coach and athletic director Mark Goetsch carried across the Crowne Centre auditorium. “Most teams have some strong offensive player, an MVP of sorts, who can score goals or points. On many teams, there’s a defensive leader, a stopper of sorts, who can shut down the opponents’ threats.” He dove into his leadership illustration as he looked over the silent student body. “But how many teams have a player of influence?” he asked.
Since 1994, Mark Goetsch has been a player of influence both on and off the court, and Pensacola Christian College is proud to announce that he has been inducted as a member of the NCCAA Hall of Fame.
Before retiring in 2021 to teach full-time at PCC, Goetsch coached over 800 games throughout his career, 300 more than the average for an NCCAA coach, and invested in roughly 500 student-athletes over his 27-year tenure. He not only mentored through athletics but also challenged the entire PCC community to live a life of influence for Christ. As a frequent chapel speaker, Goetsch skillfully shares stories of athletes and sports plays and incorporates biblical principles throughout his messages. As a coach, Goetsch had been known to show up to practice early and train tirelessly with his players, one-on-one or as a group, pushing them to be better than the day before.
Even more than pushing his players to strive for excellence, Goetsch exemplified to them how coaching could be a ministry. Three days before his first semester as a freshman, Ryan Vanderboegh (Sport Management ’08) tore his ACL. “I knew very few people at PCC at that time, but Coach Goetsch took me to many days of rehab throughout the next 6 months and invested a lot of time in me over the next 5 years,” said Ryan. Having played under Goetsch for four years, Ryan is grateful for the influence that made him who he is today.
Major League Baseball umpire John Libka (History Education ’09), another former Eagles player, appreciated how Goetsch motivated him in ways no one else had. “I learned a lot about hard work from him, and his example was very influential during those very formative years in shaping who I have become,” he said. “Through all of this, his love for our Lord was evident, and Coach’s desire to see us thrive spiritually was very evident.”
Wherever he served, Mark Goetsch purposed to get involved in the ministry. He started a Sunday school class at Campus Church, which he still teaches today, soon after he began coaching the PCC Eagles. Having a heart for missions, he also led the Romania missions team with Youth Outreach Ministry (YOM) for twelve years. While there, he taught using object lessons similar to those he has used as a chapel speaker.
Beth Hottel (Bible ’14), who is now staff at PCC and attends Goetsch’s Sunday school class, went on the Romania YOM missions trips in 2014 and 2016. “We were challenged to pray for each other and the people in Romania on a daily basis. He was right alongside us playing games with the kids and with us, always was there to offer advice or words of encouragement,” she said of her time on the team. “I’ve always liked Coach as a speaker in chapel [when I was a student] and now as my Sunday school teacher. He’s someone I’ve always respected as a person.”
Goetsch uses the relationships he built through sports as avenues for evangelism. After each game, he inspired companionship between his team and the opposing teams by hosting post-game pizza gatherings. His example motivated his players to get to know their opponents, some even getting the opportunity to lead others to the Lord.
Former Eagles player Jeremy Ruffin (Sport Management ’10, M.S. Educational Leadership ’12) was one of the many student-athletes Goetsch had a direct influence on. Jeremy founded and owns Ruff Path, a company that allows him to build relationships with people in the basketball community and offer guidance, training, and support. “[Coach Goetsch] taught me that you can have a ministry with coaching and that your relationship with the Lord is so important if you are going to have a relationship with others,” Jeremy said. “I thank the Lord for Coach Goetsch. He was my [Little League coach] growing up. He instilled in me the daily grind mentality needed as a coach and a man.”
As one of his former students, PCC Lady Eagles basketball coach Jared Sellars (Physical Education ’00) learned a lot about basketball and life while playing for and learning under Goetsch. “Those who know Coach well are very familiar with the time and energy he puts into mentoring and caring for others,” Jared said. “He is an extremely hard worker and always put in the extra time and effort with his coaching and teaching. In the last 11 years working here at PCC, Coach has been extremely helpful and, overall, a great mentor and friend. I am so glad he is getting honored by the NCCAA; he has worked so hard over the years serving at PCC and the NCCAA. I am so thankful for his leadership in my life.”
Through everything he does, Mark Goetsch has consistently been a dependable mentor, coach, teacher, and friend. We at PCC are thankful for the continued guidance and encouragement he provides to students, faculty and staff. In a recent chapel message, Goetsch summed this up best: “Leadership, in its simplest form, is influence.”