Rio receives Champions of Character honor

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the 15th 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).

The announcement was made earlier this week by the NAIA national office.

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 Bronze Level institution.

“Being a Champion is about seeing the big picture. It’s about being prepared for life. This award is a statement from our student/athletes about how they are preparing their selves for the journey of life,” said Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham. “The vision of the NAIA Champions of Character program is to change the culture of sport. Our student/athletes are making a difference in all of our lives. 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.”

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.

“We’re very, very proud of the fact that we are a five-star institution,” said Ken French, Rio Grande head men’s basketball coach and liaison to the NAIA’s Champion of Character Initiative. “I think that’s one of the things that makes Rio very special. We have a lot of different athletes in each program that are very high-character kids, now I’m not saying that every team is full of angels, I understand that, we still have our fair share of little things that happen on campus, but never anything of the major variety.”

“It speaks volumes to, not only to our student-athletes, but our coaches in each of our programs and what they’re looking for in the type of kids that they want to recruit and bring into our programs,” French added.

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.

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.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing