NCAC 20th Anniversary
NORTH COAST ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY;
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The 2003-04 academic year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the North Coast Athletic Conference. The NCAC's commitment to equity, its broad base of athletic programs and its unwavering insistence on excellence in academics has served as a basis for success both on and off athletic fields. In conjunction with the 20th annivesary, the conference will be announcing All-Decade teams in all 22 of its sports throughout the year. The release of the seven fall teams begins with football on Thursday, August 7. The announcement will be made at the annual NCAC Football Media Day, to be held at the Granville Inn.
The fall of 1984 launched the first playing season for the new experiment called the North Coast Athletic Conference, a new playing conference in the NCAAs Division III.
The Conferences new principles and goals were revolutionary in the conservative world of college athletics at the time. As we mark the NCACs 20th Year of operation, the Conference, with its strong commitment to equity and excellence, has been a model to change the face of college athletics at all levels in the NCAA. That leadership in the early 1980s has also trickled down and changed the face of sports programs at the high school level.
Most prominent was the NCACs stance, written into the preamble of its constitution, that womens sports would have equity with mens sports. Except for a few conferences that had just added womens sports (like the Big Ten in 1983), the NCAC was the first to state that this was a key goal of operation. Hard to believe today, but in 1984, most every conference was setup for mens college sports onlyand then, just for football and mens basketball. NCAC members withdrew from conferences that resisted adding womens sports.
Marquee sports, major and minor sports, revenue-producing sportsall were catchphrases of the early 1980s, says Dennis Collins, the NCACs only Executive Director, now in his 20th season at the NCAC helm. The environment was not only completely different than today, it was openly hostile to womens sports and every sport other than football and mens basketball.
The results of our early positions have resulted in acceptance of womens sports and contributed to the media coverage of all sports, states Baird Tipson, President of Wittenberg University and the current president of the NCAC.
NCAC founders decided that womens sports and all sports were important to their colleges and stated so in their new constitution (there are now 22 NCAC sports). As a result, the NCAC emphasized all sports, including swimming, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball, in addition to football and mens basketball. This also was wildly revolutionary. One of the major results of these decisions was that coaching staffs had to be increased, fields and facilities expanded and the overall budgets of NCAC colleges jumped dramatically. These proactive positions were well ahead of the punitive nature of the Title IX debate, which came in the later 1980s.
College presidents made these decisions, along with key input from their mens and womens athletic administrators and faculty athletic representatives. There is no way these advances could have been made without the commitment of these NCAC presidents.
Presidential control was another key principle of the NCAC. This also was rather rare in those days and still is, even today. However, it was the strength of the presidents and their commitment to adding programs, adding budget, and adding facilities, which set the NCAC apart from its competition.
Athletic and Academic Excellence
Athletic and academic excellence have not only survived in the NCAC model, they have prospered. Early skeptics labeled the NCAC non-competitive because of its high academics and new principles. How could academically selective colleges, such as the NCAC members, compete with other conferences and in NCAA Championships?
The answer is 50 NCAA National Championships in 19 years. Each year the NCACs 22 sports are strongly represented in NCAA post-season competition.
Whether it is the College of Woosters mens basketball team going to the Division III Final Four last winter or Ohio Wesleyan winning the mens or womens national soccer crown, or Allegheny winning the NCAA football title, or Kenyons incredible run of national swimming championships, the proof is there. The NCAC is one of the elite athletic conferences amongst the 40 in NCAA Division III, the associations largest division.
Consider that in its first 19 years, the NCAC has won titles in the traditional sports of football (Allegheny, 1990) and mens basketball (Ohio Wesleyan, 1988). Beyond that its football squads, such as Allegheny, Wittenberg and Wabash have established the NCAC as the fourth best in all of Division III Conferences (.615% winning percentage) in the national playoffs, since their expansion in the early 1990s.
NCAC mens and womens basketball squads have always done well in the national championship series. In addition to Ohio Wesleyans mens title in 1988, both Wittenberg (1994) and Wooster (2003) have advanced to the Division III Final Four. Wittenberg has made more NCAA Tournament appearances than any other school in Division III.
The success of Ohio Wesleyans womens squad has been indicative of the emergence of that sport in the NCAC, as the Bishops advanced to the Womens Division III Final Four in 1999.
NCAC swimming and diving has dominated the national scene to an incredible degree. Kenyon College, under legendary coach Jim Steen, has been the equivalent, or better, of John Woodens UCLA national championship teams in Division I mens basketball. While Wooden won seven straight NCAA titles, he pales somewhat to Steens squads, which have racked up 24 straight mens titles and 19 womens titles (17 consecutively)!
Kenyon has also added three national womens tennis titles to the NCACs total of 50 to date.
NCAC Soccer has long been amongst the finest in the nation, with Ohio Wesleyan winning the mens crown in 1998, after coming very close over the previous 15 years. Womens soccer has developed at almost a faster pace, with many good teams around the league, and Ohio Wesleyan has now won the last two national championships.
Over the past 19 years, the NCAC has had great performances from its baseball squads (three in the World Series), mens and womens lacrosse teams (in the national title games), and outstanding individual performances from golf and track stars.
NCAC student-athletes are named to All-America teams on a regular basis, including some earning National Player of the Year honors, such Brian Nelson of the College of Wooster in Division III mens basketball this past season.
Many NCAC coaches have been honored by their peers as National Coach of the Year, including Nan Carney-Debord, womens basketball coach at Ohio Wesleyan, and former OWU mens basketball coach Gene Mehaffey.
Both Jay Martin and Bob Barnes of Ohio Wesleyan have also been honored as national soccer coaches of the year and there have been many others in the NCACs 22 sports. Coaches like Denison Keith Piper in football (200 career wins) and Kenyons Jim Steen are undoubtedly bound for their sports respective Halls of Fame.
However, NCAC student-athletes give meaning to the word student. They are among the leaders, as a conference, in winning NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships and in earning berths on the Academic All-America teams sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors Association.
Beyond the steps taken for equity in athletics and the demonstrated athletic and academic excellence, the NCAC has produced leaders at the NCAA level, which have fought for the Conferences ideals at the national level.
Five NCAC presidents have served on the NCAAs Presidents Council, including newly-elected Dale Knobel, president of Denison University. Two of this group have served as the national chairs of the Presidents Council. Thomas Courtice, president of Ohio Wesleyan University, served as chair (2002) to end his recent four-year tenure (1998-2002) on the Council. His predecessor at OWU, David Warren, also served as chair during his term, 1988-92. This OWU service follows a tradition in the NCAA, with the Reverend Herbert Welch serving on the founding Executive Committee of the NCAA in 1906, its first year. Wittenbergs William Kinnison and Michele T. Myers of Denison also served on the Council.
Five NCAC Administrators have served on the NCAA Management Council for Division III, the most notable being Al Van Wie, the retired Wooster athletic director, who also served as an NCAA Vice-President during his tenure, 1986-90. NCAC Executive Director Dennis Collins served a four-year term from 1992-1996, followed by Allegheny Associate Athletic Director, Maureen Hager, who served from 1997-1999. Bob Malekoff, the former athletic director at Wooster finished a term this past year and Bob Rosencrans, the former athletic director at Wittenberg served a partial term in 1992.
Professor Jeff Ankrom, one of Wittenbergs faculty athletic representatives has been very active on various NCAA committees over the past 10 years, including a recent stint as a Vice-President of the national Faculty Athletics Representatives Association. Several NCAC faculty representatives have also been active in this national group.
Participation and Graduation
The bottom line is that the NCAC provides college athletic opportunities for 5,000 student-athletes in 22 sports each year. It provides those opportunities without the benefit of a major TV contract (unlike its Division I counterparts), and is funded directly from the regular college budget. Beyond that, NCAC member colleges graduate nearly 85 percent of our student-athletes each yearand that is the real reason to celebrate the NCACs 20th Anniversary season!
Copyright 2003 North Coast Athletic Conference
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