The Highlander Tradition: "Excellence for the Glory of God"
“It is the mission of the Houghton College Athletics Department to glorify God by educating and developing men and women leaders who compete with excellence, lead by character, and exemplify Jesus Christ in our world.”
From the early days of “Purple and Gold” to more than 40 years as a member of the NAIA and now as a provisional member of NCAA Division III, the Highlander tradition has long been marked by academic excellence, athletic achievement and a commitment to using sport to reach the world for Christ.
With more than 230 student-athletes competing in 18 men’s and women’s sports, the Highlanders have earned a reputation for achievement both in the arena of play and in the classroom. Academics are the priority for each student-athlete, and Houghton faculty and coaches work together to ensure that each student-athlete has the support they need to excel. Houghton’s teams have been regular recipients of the NAIA’s Scholar Team awards, while individual athletes have garnered numerous NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors. The recognition has continued in Houghton’s new Empire 8 affiliation and its renewed membership in the National Christian College Athletics Association. The fall 2012 seasons saw 42 student-athletes named to the Empire 8 President’s List for maintaining a GPA over 3.75 while nine programs were recognized as Empire 8 Scholar Teams for a maintaining a GPA of 3.2 or higher. Houghton’s department wide team GPA of 3.22 was third in the conference. In addition to conference honors, 16 student-athletes were recognized by the NCCAA for their work in the classroom.
Performance in the classroom has not come at the expense of accomplishments in the field of play. Houghton student-athletes study hard, practice hard and play hard. During Houghton’s time in the NAIA, Highlander programs reached NAIA national championship events more than 40 times. Conference and regional recognition of Houghton’s teams and athletes occurred with regularity, and with new affiliations in place, Houghton student-athletes have already made a mark in the Empire 8 and NCCAA. Through the fall and winter seasons, Houghton student-athletes have received 13 E8 Player of the Week and four NCCAA Player of the Week awards. The post season accomplishments included seven E8 First Team selections, eight NCCAA First Team East Region honors, and four Second Team NCCAA All-America selections. An NCCAA Region Player of the Year and numerous conference and regional second team and honorable mention selections were also highlights.
Character Development and Sports Ministry
Highlander teams use their commitment to excellence, both athletically and scholarly, as a platform for their strong and unique emphasis on sports ministry and character development. Houghton coaches and student-athletes are working together to change the culture of sport and to change our culture through sport. Their goal is to make a positive impact on those they play with, those they play against, and those they play in front of.
Houghton was one of the 13 original schools chosen to serve as a program center for the NAIA Champions of Character program, which empowers athletes, coaches, officials and fans to be role models for sportsmanship and fair play on the field (or court) and in our communities. Though Houghton is no longer a member of the NAIA, the college still abides by the program's five core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship. Now as a member of the Empire 8 Conference, Houghton has joined an organization that is on the leading edge of sportsmanship programming across the country. Empire 8 student-athletes and coaches are committed to "Compete with Honor and Integrity".
The other side of the community outreach component is Houghton’s legacy of sports ministry. The high visibility of sports within most cultures provides a unique opportunity for the Christian athlete to affect change. Houghton encourages its athletes to use that opportunity to develop relationships and to share their faith locally and globally. Houghton athletes and teams have regularly been involved with sports ministry trips across the globe, taking more than 33 trips to 12 countries since 1998.