Blog - Category: College Athletics

Traditional and Excellence “As One” for Hope Swim Team

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It’s called ‘As1.’ And it’s more than a motto at Hope College. It’s a way of life.

The credo of Hope College’s prestigious Men’s Swimming and Diving Team, it’s written on every cap and chanted during practices and meets. It stands for “As One Team.” And it’s a core commitment of unity in a sport that often involves being alone.

“We do everything together as a family,” Clay Hackley, a sophomore freestyler told the blog Swim Sam.

“It’s very important. We cheer ‘we get the job done.. As1!’”

Hackley produced a hype video of the Flying Dutchmen team that’s making its way around the internet. Just a hair over 1 minute, it encapsulates what’s so awesome about athletics at small colleges like Hope and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Tradition. Togetherness. Community. Excellence. Win or lose. As One.

Third place last year in the MIAA championships, the Hope program is hosting the championship in 2017. They’re led by Head Coach John Patnott, who for 38 years has overseen the college’s men’s and women’s team.

Through the years, the program has developed cherished traditions. A black flag with the letters “HMS” is carried to every meet. Freshmen get nicknames. They’re written on their white swimming and diving caps.

On the other side, of course, is As1.

“Any older swimmer on the team can, at any moment, take your cap and rub in dirt or anything to get it dirty. It’s sort of like a varsity jacket,” Hackley told the blog.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t replicated at big state schools. That’s because community is a way of life at Hope and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities, which pride themselves on being purposefully different and helping students chart their own path.

Classes are taught by award-winning faculty, rather than TAs. An engaged network of professional alumni help students pursue their dreams. Class sizes are small. And students actually graduate in four years, rather than five or six at public schools.

And despite what you may have heard, the independents are often less expensive than big state schools.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Albion College Makes Equestrian Center Dream a Reality

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College is where dreams, no matter how fanciful, find a way.

So more than a decade ago, when an Albion College student wrote a thesis with a crazy suggestion — hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place to board horses near campus? — she wasn’t laughed off college.

Instead, her idea was embraced, massaged and worked until it became reality. The super-cool Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center opened in 2004. The $1.8 million facility accommodates 79 horse stalls.

Now, it’s expanded again, as crews put finishing touches on a new indoor area, the largest of any kind among colleges nationwide. About 200-1,000 people are expected each weekend for competitions.

“It started as a joke and then turned into something more serious,” Randi Heathman, a 2003 Albion graduate, told WWMT-TV 3.

“My thesis projected that we would get approximately 15 new students per year that we wouldn’t get without this here and I think in the first year we got 30. It’s been a substantial enrollment booster ever since the day it opened.”

What’s even more remarkable: Albion College doesn’t even offer an equestrian degree. But administrators green-lit the project because they saw students had passion. And, as often the case in life, if you have passion, almost anything is possible.

“Albion prepares students for whatever career they want to go into,” Heathman, who is now the college’s equestrian adviser, told MLive.

“We want students to come here to be academically challenged and to continue or start riding if they love to do so. Those who want a career in equine usually get there one way or another.”

The project probably wouldn’t have happened at big state schools. But there’s unique bond between students and faculty at Albion and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Faculty know students because they actually teach classes, rather than sloughing them off on graduate assistants. Professors not only help students chart their own path and pursue their passion, but encourage them to take a wild idea, tie it to a string and see if it can fly.

Proudly different, purposefully small, independent colleges teach students to say “why not?” rather than “why”?

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Adrian College finds overnight success in bass fishing

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If you’re going to do something different, be the best. Do it big. And go all in. Especially when it comes to fishing.

That’s the lesson from Adrian College’s inaugural season in the surprisingly growing sport of varsity bass fishing.

Yes. You read that right. It’s OK to raise an eyebrow. Others did initially too. But no more. That’s because independent Adrian College is ranked #1 above huge schools such as Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin in Cabela’s College Bass Fishing rankings.

“When we let it be known we would be fielding a team, the reaction of some was, ‘Give me a break — bass fishing?’ But everyone has changed their tune now,” Adrian Bulldogs Athletic Director Mike Duffy told the Toledo Blade.

“It’s been a little overwhelming because things have taken a huge turn. I had hoped we could build the program and be real competitive in two or three years, but not right out of the gate.”

It may have all the makings of a movie pitch — Rocky Balboa meets David vs. Goliath on a Michigan lake — but success didn’t just happen by accident for Adrian.

It was cultivated and planned.

When Duffy decided last year to field a team, no expenses were spared. The school bought the best equipment and trailers, recruited top prospects and scoured the nation for a quality coach, Seth Borton, an Adrian native and Siena Heights graduate who fished in professional tournaments for more than a dozen years.

Varsity bass fishing is quietly becoming a big deal. Nationwide, there are 315 registered programs. Still, Adrian’s team drives up to 10 hours for tournament. That doesn’t stop team members from getting teased a bit.

“I come off the water a lot more tired and a lot more sore than I ever got playing football and playing basketball,” said Dalton Breckel, who won a junior fishing title in Michigan.

“I think everyone on the team has gotten a little bit of a fair share of razzing.”

That’s OK. Because following your passions and ignoring the naysayers is a specialty of Adrian College and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

Along with bass fishing, Adrian offers other niche sports including synchronized skating and equestrian. Because college is about having the opportunity to try new things, discover your bliss and chart your own path.

The schools emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Wrestling Under The Lights at Alma College

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What do you do if it’s 70° in November on the opening night of wrestling season? If you’re bold, independent thinkers, like the student athletes of the Alma College Scots, you head outside, flick on the lights, fill up the stands and roll out the mat at the 50-yard line of Bahlke Field.

The Alma College Wrestling team dominated the meet 33-9, scoring major decisions in three matches and winning by fall in two in front of a crowd of nearly 500 people.

You can see the box scores and more great photos over on the Alma Scots Athletics website: http://www.goalmascots.com/sports/wrest/2015-16/releases/20151105j0pfa1

Hillsdale Shotgun Team Guided by Passion, Excellence

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Sure, any college can have a basketball team. But how many have their own shotgun team?

And how many become world-class in just a few years?

Done and done at Hillsdale College, which not only offers gorgeous, 103-acre shooting facilities but has become a force in trap shooting competitions just six years after its team was formed.

National clay targets title winners in 2012 and earlier this year, the Hillsdale team finished second overall in October at the Association of Colleges Unions International Central Midwest Conference Championship. Hillsdale finished near the top in several categories, including trap and skeet shooting.

“Though the Hillsdale College team of 10 shooters represented just 8 percent of the total attendance, we took the podium in every event,” said Hillsdale sophomore Drew Lieske, a member of the Hillsdale College shotgun team.

“We have such a talented group of people. It’s such a remarkable feat.”

For the record, Hillsdale of course has a basketball team. And it’s a good one too. But college is about trying new things, discovering passions and achieving excellence.

So when the team formed in 2009, few expenses were spared at the Halter Shooting Sports Education Center. Located five miles from campus, the state-of-the-art facilities features four American trap fields, a five-stand sporting clays field, a small arms range, a skeet field for both American and International skeet and a lodge and education center.

Expansion plans include construction of a 100-meter rifle and 50-meter pistol range, as well as indoor and outdoor archery ranges and an indoor gun range.

And it’s more than just a team. Unlike other programs, Hillsdale’s features an educational component that includes education seminars on campus, guest lectures from award-winning faculty about American history, economics and the Second Amendment.

The goal: Showing students and others the “vital connection between the founding principles of the nation and their constitutional rights as free people,” according to the university.

Is it for everyone? Of course not. But that’s what the best college experiences are about: Exposure to new ideas, opening new doors and laying a framework and providing the tools to allow students to chart new paths.

That’s a hallmark of Hillsdale and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

The schools aren’t hostage to the latest fads but are guided instead by passion and principle.

Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Olivet College Marches to Own Beat on Gridiron

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This football season, when the Olivet Comets hit the field, fans won’t be the only ones making noise.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the college’s marching band will as well.

Call it sweet harmony or simple good fortune, but the band was reformed as a part of a conscientious effort to increase the sense of community at the Michigan school, says director of bands Jeremy Duby.

“The marching band really is the center of student life and school spirit, and so it really adds a whole other atmosphere to the football game,” he recently told the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s a much bigger way for us to support our team and to get the entire community involved and make that game a community event every Saturday.”

The band is starting this year with 25 students and will play at all football games, campus events and a New Year’s Day parade in Paris, France. Duby predicts it grow to about 100 members within five years — and become an ingrained part of life at Olivet.

“This is a great part of the college experience,” says an Olivet College alum who was a member of the band in the 1970s.

The move is part of a trend among smaller colleges, including those at Michigan, to invest in athletic facilities, clubs and other extracurricular activities. That’s because big public universities don’t have a monopoly on sports — or fun.

Indeed, that’s one key difference between big universities and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Madonna University adds sports programs to forge community

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College is about more than just studying. It’s about finding your own path while being part of something bigger than just yourself — entwining yourself in a community of like-minded souls.

At Madonna University, community is taken seriously. And like other colleges, the Michigan school is doing so in part by adding athletics.

This month, President Michael Grandillo announced the addition of eight sports — men’s and woman’s bowling, lacrosse, indoor and outdoor track and field. They’re the first additions since 2005, bringing the total number of Madonna Crusaders teams to 19.

“Participation in athletics and student organizations enriches the college experience, which is why we are proud to offer Madonna students more choices for learning outside the classroom,” Grandillo said.

The announcement follows years of planning and investment at Madonna. The sports began as club activities but mushroomed in popularity. In recent years, the university has added synthetic turf field at its athletic complex and installed lacrosse lines.

The moves comes as more students than ever are playing sports in college. From 2006 to 2011, the number of schools where a third or more students are involved in athletics increased to 124 from 96, according to the Associated Press.

That’s because, unlike few other endeavors, sports forge unique bonds. And, unlike big state universities, students at smaller schools like Madonna can play on teams without riding the bench — even if they haven’t been in training since they were 2 years old.

“Kids coming here know they aren’t going to play professional sports,” one student said. “They play for fun. They play for their teammates. They play for their school.”

Passion and community are big parts of the experience at Madonna and the rest of Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Pure love of sports fuels student athletes in Division III

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It’s no secret college sports are big business. College football alone recorded more than $3.4 billion. That’s a hair less than the gross domestic product of the entire nation of Barbados.

It’s little wonder, then, that many folks are cynical about college sports. Some athletes don’t even pretend to be students. There’s one controversy after another, from recruiting and pay-to-play violations to players leaving after a few seasons for the pros.

There is a place, though, where college athletics are untainted. It’s Division III, some 440 colleges and universities nationwide where competition and tradition are just as fierce as bigger universities, but student athletes play for a novel motivation: The love of the game.

“Division III athletics is the purest form of intercollegiate competition,” according to Psychology Today.

“Student-athletes are truly students first. Players are talented, competitive, and driven, but also know that they are in school to pursue an education, prepare for a career, and to develop socially, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.”

NCAA regulations bar student-athletes from receiving athletic scholarships, but that doesn’t mean they don’t receive help. Division III colleges offer grants and other financial aid packages, so students often end up with a large portion of their tuition paid.

That’s particularly true at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where more than 95 percent of students receive aid – from leadership scholarships to academic fellowships to educational grants. That brings the costs of a world-class college within reach — a priceless education that is affordable.

And the rivalries, talent and level of competition at Division III? That’s the stuff of legend, especially among the seven Michigan colleges in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Since 1990, the schools have won 18 Division III national titles. And few streaks in all of sports are as impressive as the Kalamazoo College men’s tennis team, which has won or shared every division championship since 1936, while Calvin College’s men’s cross country has won 21 straight division titles.

Calvin College and Hope College are such bitter foes that ESPN recently named it one of college basketball’s greatest rivalries. Kalamazoo College and Olivet College also have a deep rivalry that dates back decades.

College athletics is just one difference between big public institutions and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

All share a commitment to helping students succeed by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Milk Jugs & Mascots: Siena Heights and Adrian Create Unique Cross Town Rivalry

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One is Catholic. The other is Methodist. One dominates at basketball. The other has a football legacy rich in championships.

Separated by three miles, Siena Heights University and Adrian College have coexisted in Adrian for nearly 100 years. Tradition, faith and academic excellence run deep at both schools in south-central Michigan. Both are fiercely small and proud, so a long and colorful rivalry was inevitable.

Consider: In 2009, Siena Heights decided it needed a mascot. The school is known as the Saints. But that didn’t seem so fierce. So students voted on an alternative and came up with Halo the Husky, in part to thumb their nose at the Bulldogs of Adrian College.

“It’s kind of a shot at Adrian College, the bulldogs, because huskies are stronger and faster,” the student who submitted the winning suggestion said.

Lo and behold, Adrian got a new mascot the next year. A live bulldog named Bruiser.

Since the 1970s, the two schools have squared off every year in basketball for “The Battle of the Milk Jug.” The trophy is exactly what it sounds like — a giant, clunky, hand-painted milk jug featuring a basketball trophy with more than a few dents that the winner keeps for a year.

The Saints have dominated, winning 28 of 36 matchups since 1977, including all games from 1988 to 2002.

Adrian has built its sports tradition on football, forming a team in 1892. Along the way, it’s won 16 conference championships, most recently in 2012.

Siena Heights waited a couple years to form a football team. More than 100, in fact. The school fielded its first team in 2012, becoming the first Catholic college in Michigan to offer football scholarships.

Both schools pride themselves on strong academics, small class sizes and molding students. Siena was founded in 1919 by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and became co-ed in 1969. Priding itself as the first wireless campus in Michigan, the university has a world-renowned creative writing program and has satellite campuses in Southfield, Benton Harbor, Monroe, Lansing, Jackson and online.

Adrian was founded by Methodists in 1859. Its campus served as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War. Its campus is a charming mix of new and old buildings and the school prides itself on strong academics, from accounting and business to mathematics and physics.

Both embody the unique experience offered at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Basketball Rivalries Run Deep at Michigan’s Independent Colleges and Universities

Who says February is the dullest month in sports? The Super Bowl may be over and March Madness is weeks away, but hard court action is tough to beat at Michigan’s independent colleges and universities.

Small schools don’t get the attention of big programs, but their basketball action is just as fierce and traditions are just as deep. The difference: Our fans are closer to the action and don’t have to take out more student loans to fill the bleachers.

Consider:
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Awesome Rivalries
Calvin College and Hope College’s men’s basketball teams have been duking it for more than 80 years. The Flying Dutchmen of Hope hold a slight edge over the Knights of Calvin, with 98 wins to 91 as of January.

Don’t take our word for it. In 2007, ESPN called it one of the best-rivalries in college basketball, writing it’s “the closest thing to Duke-North Carolina as you can imagine.”

The rivalry even has its own website: calvinhope.com

The two play in the nation’s oldest collegiate sports conference, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. It’s so old Grover Cleveland was president when Olivet College founded the conference in 1888.

Calvin and Hope have dominated since. Calvin won the 1992 and 2000 NCAA Division III championship, while Hope was national runner-up in 1996 and 1998.

The rivalry is so spirited that even its origins are in question. The first game was in 1917. But Calvin loyalists say it doesn’t count. That’s because a loosely organized Calvin students challenged the Hope team.

For their initiative, Calvin was trounced 55-8 and barred from commencement ceremonies by administrators. Three years later, the two schools played their first official game. Since then, it’s become one of the hottest tickets in west Michigan. How hot? A Hope College president supposedly once defined an atheist as “someone who goes to a Hope-Calvin basketball game and doesn’t care who wins.”

Kalamazoo College and Olivet College also have an intense rivalry. It grew so testy that it became national news in 2001.

It began with a buzzer beater. Kalamazoo thought they won. Refs called off the basket. The Hornets asked for a video review. Bingo: They were declared the winners.

Olivet protested to the conference, which declared the Comets the winners. Kalamazoo protested again to the NCAA, which again gave them the game.
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Top-Flight Talent
Who says top talent goes to big public schools, Baby? Not Dick Vitale, the ESPN college basketball guru.

He was the University of Detroit-Mercy’s head coach for four years in the 1970s before leaving for the Detroit Pistons. Dickie V led the Detroit Titans, #DetroitsCollegeTeam, to the Sweet 16 and is such a legend that UDM named its basketball court at Calihan Hall in his honor in 2011.

Several current and former NBA players count themselves as UDM Titans, including NBA Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere, Seattle Supersonics legend Spencer Haywood and current Sacramento Kings point guard Ray McCallum Jr.

UDM doesn’t have a monopoly on former stars: Hillsdale College, for instance, has several players who are in European leagues.

Unmatched Atmosphere
Adrian College, Hillsdale College and other colleges in recent years have invested millions of dollars in the past 15 years upgrading sports facilities, mascots and fight songs.

The result: A festive, raucous vibe that brings students and alumni together, adding to a unique sense of community that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

College basketball is just one difference between big public institutions and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where students forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.