KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Rio Grande is one of 169 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) member schools recently recognized as a Champions of Character Five-Star Institution.
The NAIA tracks the progress of its member institutions and conferences in pursuing character education and recognizes the achievements in training, promotion and conduct in competition.
The Champions of Character Scorecard measures commitment in the initiative’s five core areas and has a possible 100 points. Three levels of recognition are awarded – Gold (90-100 points), Silver (75-89 points) and Bronze levels (60-74).
Rio Grande finished with 80 points – its highest score ever – and was one of 68 schools among the 236 who are NAIA members to earn Silver status.
“This recognition is a direct result of the priority that our entire campus, and our Athletics programs in particular, places on integrity, a positive spirit, and personal responsibility,” said Rio Grande President Michelle Johnston. “Our coaches, faculty, and staff nurture a strong sense of character, and our student-athletes respond. To me, this is the best ‘W’ on the books.”
Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham echoed Johnston’s sentiment.
“We’re so proud of our Rio Athletic Department for the accomplishment of being named a Silver Champions of Character Five-Star Institution,” Lanham said. “The Live-5 initiative provides training for student-athletes and professional development for coaches and staff. The core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership are put into play and accounted for by our athletic department.”
Lanham said that Rio Grande conducts training throughout the year as individuals, teams, coaches and administrators to promote the department’s development in more than just wins and losses.
“Our goal is to develop our student/athletes to compete in life and be successful as a friend, colleague, parent and teammate,” Lanham added.
Twenty-nine schools received Gold recognition, while 72 institutions finished in the Bronze category.
Columbia College (SC) had the highest score nationwide with 109 points, while three other schools – SCAD Atlanta (Ga.), Cumberlands (Ky.) and Blue Mountain (Miss.) – also surpassed the 100-point mark.
Twenty of the 21 NAIA conferences, including the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – of which Rio Grande is a member – received the Five-Star Conference Award.
“It’s a great honor. It says a lot about our student-athletes to be selected as a Silver Star Champions of Character Institution,” said Ken French, Rio Grande’s Campus Character Liaison. “In the 15 years that I’ve been here, this is one of the best group of student-athletes we’ve had on our campus as far as being involved – not only in support of one another, but in the community as well. They conduct themselves in the proper manner, both on and off the court or the field or whatever the case might be. We’re blessed with the group we have and they’re doing a lot of good things.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.