By Jim Godo ’93, North Central College Vice President for Communication and Strategic Initiatives and Special Assistant to the President
When the North Central College football team won the NCAA Division III national championship last month for the second time in three straight title game appearances, fans at watch parties in multiple downtown Naperville establishments erupted with joy. Perhaps the only place louder was Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Cardinals defeated Mount Union 28-21.
It was an extraordinary moment in the life of our College—one made sweeter by the incredible support that our players and coaches felt from our hometown … Naperville.
On behalf of the entire Cardinal community, thank you, Naperville, for banding together to “Paint the Town Cardinal Red” as our team completed a perfect 15-0 season:
Thank you to Downtown Naperville business owners for hanging locally printed “Paint the Town Red” posters in windows and hosting watch parties. Some of you had kids attend North Central, or our students have been employees and customers. Whatever the connection, you’re part of the Cardinal family.
Thank you to fans for coming together to cheer on our Cardinals throughout the season, whether you sat in Benedetti-Wehrli stadium or in a downtown establishment. We’re glad North Central could bring you thrilling football action this season.
Finally, thank you to Kaylin Risvold and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Christine Jeffries and the Naperville Development Partnership, Danielle Tufano and the Downtown Naperville Alliance, and Brad Wilson and the Naperville Park District. Your team effort to “Paint the Town Red” was much appreciated and demonstrated that the combination of creativity and collaboration is unbeatable.
When Christine described to us the show-of-support that was being coordinated for “Naperville’s college team,” she noted that North Central College and the city have long been intertwined. Each enhances the other.
During the championship post-game press conference, first-year head coach—and lifelong Naperville resident—Brad Spencer expressed a value system that runs deep in his program, the College, and our beloved City: hard-working, warm and welcoming, family- and community-focused.
He said, “I’m most proud of our coaching staff and our players believing in being All-American fathers, husbands and teammates and allowing themselves to compete for championships on and off the field.”
When players took the microphone, it was clear they embraced those core values as they worked to win, week after week, for each other, for their school, and for this community. If you get a chance, watch the press conference to hear more from our head coach and players. I think you’ll be proud and impressed.
Football is only the latest success among North Central’s 27 intercollegiate sports. In November, our women’s triathlon team won its fourth national championship, with sophomore Hailey Poe securing her second straight individual title. Now in-season, our women’s wrestling team includes two-time national champion Yelena Makoyed. During the 2021-2022 academic year, 17 North Central teams competed in post-season national championship competitions.
Unlike NCAA Division I and II programs, Division III athletes are not incentivized by the availability of athletic scholarships. They are true student-athletes who get what is most important: to play for the love of the sport and the opportunity to achieve athletic and academic excellence.
We wish you a happy new year. Thanks again, Naperville—and Go Cardinals!
Visit northcentralcardinals.com to find the North Central athletics schedule and download the North Central Cardinals app. Many home games and matches are kid-friendly and free to attend. You can also stream competitions live online, or listen live on the College radio station, WONC 89.1 FM.