By Jessica Brown, Vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics
Greetings from North Central College!
From Friday night lights at a football game, to crisp mornings on a cross country course, the fall season is synonymous with sports—especially here in Naperville and on the campus of North Central College. October means that many of our Cardinal sports teams are gearing up for their conference tournaments and championships, and several teams have an eye on making post-season runs into November and beyond.
At North Central, we’re proud of our rich history of athletic success, which has culminated in 40 team national championships. The College’s championship history dates back to the late 1950s, when the men’s swimming team—led by Olympic gold medalist Dick Blick—won four national titles in a six-year span. The 1970s ushered in the dominant men’s cross country program, which has captured 19 NCAA Division III national championships to date—the most of any cross country team in any division. The women’s basketball team won the 1983 NCAA Division III title, and in 1989, the men’s track & field program won its first of 12 team titles.
In more recent years, the women’s triathlon team has established itself as a perennial power, winning three consecutive national titles from 2017-2019, and the Cardinal football team won the program’s first national championship in 2019 and finished as national runner-up last season.
As proud as we are of our past, we’re equally excited for our future. North Central College competes in a total of 27 intercollegiate sports—more than any other school in our conference. Of those 27 teams, 17 competed in post-season national championship competitions during the 2021-2022 academic year, and 14 of our teams have been nationally ranked. North Central has one of the most well rounded and competitive athletics programs in all of NCAA Division III.
If you’re not familiar with NCAA Division III, it simply means that—unlike NCAA Division I and II programs—athletes are not incentivized by the availability of athletic scholarships. Division III athletes are true student-athletes, and the athletics administration and coaches work together to create and maintain an environment that fosters holistic student-athlete experience, inside and outside of the classroom. That doesn’t mean they take their sports any less seriously—I’d argue that we have some of the most dedicated athletes anywhere in the country—but it does mean that their education comes first.
In many ways, we view the playing field as an extension of the classroom. It’s an opportunity for students to learn and develop important life skills like communication, leadership, teamwork and accountability. We know that when our student-athletes graduate from North Central, they will apply the skills they learned on the playing field toward successful careers—and that matters far more than any national title or individual award.
Please join me in cheering on our Cardinal student-athletes this fall and throughout the rest of the year. The full schedule of events is available at northcentralcardinals.com or you can download the North Central Cardinals app. Many of our home games and matches are free to attend and are kid-friendly. You can also stream competitions live online, or listen live on the College radio station, WONC 89.1 FM.