KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the 16th consecutive year, the University of Rio Grande has been named a Champions of Character Five-Star Institution by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Every year, each NAIA institution and conference demonstrates their progress in pursuing character-driven athletics. The Champions of Character Scorecard measures growth in training, promotion, conduct in competition and commitment in five key areas with a possibility of 100 points. Institutions can be recognized as Champions of Character Five-Star Institutions at three different levels: Gold (90-100 points), Silver (75-89 points) and Bronze (60-74).
Rio Grande, which has been recognized each year since the program’s inception in 2001-02, was recognized as a Silver Level institution.
“It’s great recognition for our institution and what our student-athletes represent,” said Ken French, Rio Grande head men’s basketball coach and liaison to the NAIA’s Champion of Character Initiative. “Each program in our athletic department focuses on developing student-athletes and helping them to mature as young adults. We take a lot of pride in how our athletes represent our University.”
The River States Conference, of which Rio Grande is a member, was also recognized with the NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Conference designation. Ten of the 13 conference members made the list and two – Midway University and Ohio Christian University – received perfect scores.
Institutions are measured on a demonstrated commitment to Champions of Character and earned points in character training, conduct in competition, academic focus, character recognition and character promotion. Institutions earned points based on exceptional student-athlete grade point averages and by having minimal to no ejections during competition throughout the course of the academic year.
New to the Scorecard this year was the opportunity use a teachable moment to offset an ejection for fighting, profanity, or dissent. More than 50 institutions took advantage of this opportunity.
For 2016-17, 183 NAIA institutions earned the Five-Star Institution Award which included 66 gold level winners, 76 silver level winners, and 41 bronze level winners. NAIA Five-Star Conference Awards are also given in part based on the number of schools within the conference that earn the Five-Star Institution Award. This year, 18 conferences earned the Five-Star Conference Award.
The NAIA’s Champions of Character program provides training for student-athletes and professional development for coaches and staff. The values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leaderships are put into play and accounted for at NAIA schools.
“Being a Champion is about seeing the big picture. It’s about being prepared for life,” said Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham. “The vision of the NAIA Champions of Character program is to change the culture of sport. As our student/athletes develop the approach of Champions of Character, they are becoming better teammates, students, athletes, friends, community members and eventually a better employee.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.