Author Topic: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution  (Read 2966 times)

Offline Falconer

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2019, 05:45:03 pm »
Messiah has four teams other than MW soccer that almost always make the tournament: softball, W basketball (Final Four at least twice), wrestling (a few individual champions and now always in the top group as a team), and field hockey (just one title a couple years ago, but more than a dozen Final Fours).

Track has had just a few individual champions, including the decathlon nearly 20 years ago (an AA keeper in the first soccer championship team, who later qualified for the Olympic trials), the steeplechase champ in 2019, and the W800 champ also in 2019 (soccer player Esther Seeland, a current SO whose time is only 2 seconds from the Olympic trial standard).

Soccer is king of the hill, but I suspect wrestling is almost there too.

Offline deutschfan

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2019, 10:30:42 am »
Happy Thanksgiving to all the players, parents, coaches and fans of the beautiful game being played at its purest level.  In honor of this thread, God bless.

Offline Dubuquer

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2019, 10:21:32 pm »
I was and still am a non-believer but I chose to go to a religious-affiliated school (Luther) in part because there was just something about the atmosphere that I liked and didn't feel at all at the other schools that interested me (Macalester, Carleton, Oberlin) as a high school junior and senior.  I was a little taken aback when I moved to Dubuque and began going to Loras games and they started out every game with a prayer before the national anthem.  That's not something I was used to and it made me a little uncomfortable but I very much respect it and I think that the unquantifiable "feel" of the college is in many respects similar to Luther and I attribute that in part to the faith that is shared by a high percentage of the student body.

Offline Falconer

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2019, 05:24:25 pm »
So far, I've argued that NESCAC and D3 Christian colleges mostly draw soccer players (and probably other students as well) from demographic groups that overlap only minimally. I don't mean to imply the absence of other demographic groups, from which other schools get players. For example, NJAC schools probably get most of their players from NJ, since those students get tuition breaks, and I assume that most of those students don't qualify academically for NESCAC, just as I assume most of the players at Messiah or Calvin don't qualify academically for NESCAC, either--however, quite a few Wheaton players probably do qualify for NESCAC, since Wheaton is pretty competitive. Other demographic groups surely exist across D3, which is a hugely diverse group of schools, ranging from UAA to NESCAC to Centennial schools (and similar places) to smaller state schools to small, non-elite private schools to Christian colleges. Each set of schools will have a particular target demographic, and each will recruit partly based on their past experience with similarly profiled students.

So--why are NESCAC schools as a group so very good at soccer? I suggest we consider at least 3 factors. (1) They tend to draw students from elite private academies with very pricey tuition. Such places might or might not have football teams, but almost certainly have soccer teams. The families served by those academies are on the whole far wealthier than the families served by most other colleges and perhaps all other conferences, though I don't have data to show this so it must remain a conjecture. Those families can afford the very best soccer camps, and they tend to be very well connected socially--and with other families interested in NESCAC schools, perhaps adding another dimension to recruiting when two young men who competed against one another in HS want to be teammates. (2) They are mostly very wealthy schools, in terms of endowment/student. Some can afford to be need-blind in admissions, such that a full or nearly full scholarship can be given to any student whose family income justifies that. So, if a low- or mid-D1 level player (let us say) is given a full or nearly full ride to Amherst or Williams or Midd or Tufts, he might well decide to forego D1 to play at the highest level in D3 for less money overall--while attending (probably) a much better school. (3) The highly competitive admissions for NESCAC means that coaches can give "tips" to marginal admits who might not otherwise be admitted. Such players might thereby be more attracted to play at those excellent colleges, than at some other college that isn't as prestigious.

Now, let's ask why a different group of players chooses a place like Calvin, Messiah, or Wheaton over a low- or mid-D1 level school, or over a NESCAC. (1) Most students at Christian colleges do not come from elite private academies, though a small number do. Mainly they come from (a) rural or suburban public HS (rarely urban public schools), (b) Christian HS, or (c) homeschooling, where they have played soccer for a local public HS or a local Christian HS. Students in categories (b) and (c) either buy into Christian education themselves (ignoring their families for the moment), or they don't. If they do, Christian colleges are on their radar screens and might be their first options. Students in category (a) tend to pick Christian colleges b/c they feel shortchanged in their public education (which mainly ignores religious beliefs and values) and they want a strong Christian dimension when they get to college; or, they might feel subject to considerable anti-religious taunting or even discrimination from their secular HS peers. (I know surprisingly many HS students who say this happens. A collegiate woman told me over the holiday that this was the case at her HS.) In other words, a lot of the students who play soccer at Christian colleges strongly want that type of education, and since they can compete at the highest levels at some of those schools, they jump at the chance to do so. (2) Many Christian HSS don't have football, but they do have soccer. This has been true for many decades, and some of those well-established programs produce high D1 level players. An example of such a school that often feeds Messiah is Cuyahoga Valley Christian School (OH), where Kai Kasiguran and the four Thompson boys all played; they have sent players of similar caliber to other colleges, too, including some high D1s and D2s. Pipelines get started this way.

Again, more can be said, but I wanted to get this out there for now.

Offline Falconer

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2019, 03:44:30 pm »
The next piece in my argument is to consider what this information means, for the individual, college-prep HS soccer player good enough to play anywhere in D3 and probably somewhere in D1. Those are the types of players we're talking about in this thread: if they aren't good enough to play for Amherst or Calvin or Messiah or Tufts, we are ignoring them.

Those young men want to play collegiate soccer, and they may want to compete for national titles--who can blame them? Many of them will get interest from D1 and D2 programs; a few of them will be offered full or very large academic scholarships by D3 schools. So, ignoring all the other colleges, if a player in this category gets interest from NESCACs and/or any of these Christian colleges, he knows he can go deep in the tournament and be surrounded by similarly gifted players only at a small number of schools, the very best of which (in terms of soccer traditions) in recent years are NESCACs or Christian colleges, with of course a number of others (UAAs, Oneonta, Loras, or Trinity come to mind) just a little behind. For this type of student, the overall quality of a college's soccer program is probably the deciding factor in making the collegiate decision--it's why (e.g.) they didn't apply to that really good liberal arts college a couple hours away, or that smaller state school that's a lot less expensive. If that student is a serious Christian, and he doesn't believe he's quite good enough to play in the ACC or the Big Ten, he's probably applying to Messiah, Calvin, and/or Wheaton--or, perhaps NPU, but (let's be honest) NPU seems to be much more interested in European players, and maybe he doesn't want to live in Chicago (not everyone does, despite the obvious attractions). Why those schools? Basically, he's attracted by (a) the great soccer tradition, making it a virtual certainty that his team will go deep into the tournament during his 4 years there; (b) the very strong emphasis at the college--and on the soccer team team--on opportunities for spiritual growth as a religious person; and (c) the strong academic programs at those schools.

In other words, those Christian colleges are getting some of the best D3 soccer players in the nation, precisely b/c there's a close match between the personal aims of the student(s) and the track records of those schools. Even at a time of declining religiosity in the US, there are still millions of Christian young people who take their faith seriously enough to prioritize it over many other things, including the opportunity to play soccer at a high level somewhere else. I know that Calvin and Messiah get multiple players from the same families, many times, and I imagine it's true also at Wheaton. One brother gets the total experience he wants, and his younger brothers want it too. (I don't mean to imply that this happens only at Christian colleges; of course it also happens at other schools. It's just extremely important to many Christian families to help their children have that experience, so success absolutely breeds success. And, feeder schools keep sending students to those places when they get such good feedback from an earlier group of students.)

So--to wrap this up--if you want the combination of factors identified here, and you're good enough to play for Calvin, Messiah, or Wheaton, you're going there. If you aren't interested in that type of Christian education, you're looking to play somewhere else. "Somewhere else" is a much bigger bucket than the few Christian colleges with high level D3 programs, so it isn't hard to see why that small group of Christian colleges can stockpile talent--in Messiah's case (at least), in some years the second team would actually be the second best team in their conference. That started happening a few years into Brandt's time as head coach, and IMO it's what made them a regular Final Four team.

Now that I've had my say, what other opinions are out there?


Online Gregory Sager

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2019, 05:15:16 pm »
If that student is a serious Christian, and he doesn't believe he's quite good enough to play in the ACC or the Big Ten, he's probably applying to Messiah, Calvin, and/or Wheaton--or, perhaps NPU, but (let's be honest) NPU seems to be much more interested in European players,

Not true. As hard as NPU has worked to get European players, the coaching staff has worked harder to get American players. For one thing, American players are there for four years, whereas most of the Europeans tend to graduate in three. And the attrition rate is better with American players, because homesickness is much less of an issue. Although North Park has had Swedes on the team since the program began in the early '80s, the European presence on the pitch for the Vikings has been more pronounced in recent seasons because the ability of the Swedes and Norwegians that John Born and Kris Grahn have brought in over the past five years has been so high. The Norwegians in particular have made a big difference in recent seasons; NPU didn't start recruiting in Norway until five or six years ago, and that new pipeline has turned out to be absolutely amazing.

The North Park men's soccer program doesn't tend to pursue the same American-based players that Wheaton, Messiah, and Calvin pursue. Calvin looks mostly at Michigan-based kids (with a few from Illinois and Ohio), and it uses the feeder system of Christian Reformed Church high schools in western Michigan to a great extent -- although the CRC feeder schools don't play as pronounced a role in supplying various Calvin sports teams with student-athletes as they used to. Messiah seems mostly focused on evangelical kids from the eastern seaboard, whereas Wheaton, as in all sports, seeks out evangelical kids from all over the country. NPU is certainly not averse to pursuing evangelical kids, of course, but the school has always followed a different enrollment philosophy than has Wheaton, f'rinstance; Wheaton requires all of its students to be evangelicals, whereas North Park doesn't. NPU is an evangelical Christian school that makes no bones about its nature and mission, but it does not require its students to share those beliefs.

and maybe he doesn't want to live in Chicago (not everyone does, despite the obvious attractions).

This is true, especially for suburban players. Many suburban kids are intimidated or put off by the big city, which is ironic when you consider how many suburban-raised recent college graduates choose to live there (illustrative of the difference between the 18-year-old's mindset and the 22-year-old's, I guess). That hampers NPU's recruiting in several sports, but less so in men's soccer. That's because most of the American-based men's soccer players that NPU gets nowadays are from immigrant families. A high percentage of North Park's soccer rosters in recent years has consisted of first- or second-generation Americans. To them, the school's multiethnic and multicultural population, and the extremely diverse communities of Albany Park and North Park in which the campus is located are, as is the case with the European players, a big part of the school's appeal. Immigrant kids grow up living in more than one culture simultaneously, and a place where not everybody looks the same, speaks the same, thinks the same, likes the same foods and music, etc., thus has a big appeal for them -- as it does for the Scandinavian kids who come from highly homogenous cultures and are actively seeking to experience the wider world (and in North Park's immediate community, the wider world is all right there within a five-block radius).
« Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 05:17:43 pm by Gregory Sager »
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Offline PaulNewman

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2019, 06:53:16 pm »
A few thoughts....

I would generally concur with everything that's been shared/written so far, especially with respect to the demographics applicable to the main two types of schools discussed thus far, and the corresponding demographics of their soccer programs.  I agree that the overlap is minimal, although there are occasional exceptions like the one Falconer already mentioned.

Let's see if we can differentiate a little more.... I don't agree with setting the parameters at the "big four" (Amherst, Calvin, Messiah, Tufts).  Not only is there a recency bias there but even recently there are schools where young men could go with expectations about competitive teams, NCAA bids, NCAA runs, and hopes of Final Fours and titles.  There are at least 15-20 schools in that category, and that's just counting the "religious" and NESCAC and NESCAC-like (other elite LACs around the country, UAAs.  The number goes even higher if we include the upper tiers year to year of the NJAC, SUNYAC, etc. 

Many young men who end up on such teams also consider fit, academic interests, fit with the program and coach, and likelihood of playing.  Now of course there are a few who could play D1 who pretty much know they'll be studs and four year starters even at the current "big four" and other top programs.  Guys like Payne and Thompson come to mind at Messiah, but that's not always the case.  Rojas at Tufts came in with much fanfare and he had to earn his way.  West at Messiah his first couple of years was not what he turned out to be his last year, etc, etc.  Some guys might want to be part of an up and coming program, or a program hungry to revitalize, or a program on the cusp.  Remember that to borrow Mr.Right's famous line that when Shapiro took over at Tufts he started out with a "bag of balls and some cones" and years of losing.  How he and coaches at other places with similar turnarounds pulled off what they did would be worthy of study itself. 

And why Messiah and Calvin....and not other religious schools?  A poster in recent years has touted and tried to boost Grove City and Geneva.  Hope may now be back in business.  This is where I think we do find overlap in terms of variables between the best soccer programs at religious schools and the best more secular institutions.  They either had have or have created an identify that even foes acknowledge.  When I hear the words 'Messiah' or 'Calvin' I think of soccer excellence.  Same with the leading seculars.  An interesting question that was raised is what would happen to different programs if coaches left.  I've always thought that there are programs like UK bball, Nebraska and Alabama football that will thrive regardless of coaches.  And that is because of the massive identification of the populous with those schools where the very identity of folks in Kentucky is so tied to the bball program.  I think of Duke and UNC bball like that, and Ohio State and Michigan football, etc.  And I think of Messiah, Calvin and OWU like that (and yeah, I mean OWU because of their tradition and not because they are peers of the other two in terms of religion).  But who knows.  Nebraska is in an extended dip.  UCLA and Indiana have the name and tradition but have not kept pace with other stalwarts like UK, Duke and UNC in bball.  So eras can end.  But I'd still bet that Messiah will make sure the program stays strong, just like I think OWU and the OWU alums will keep OWU competitive if and when Martin ever retires.  I feel like I'm rambling, but it's worth asking what a Messiah and a Tufts or Amherst have in common...and there is something there for both that involves tradition, expectation, success breeding success...

Another variable is to what degree schools identify as and build identity with a high value on athletics.  That's not a given, and I've always viewed the NESCAC as very athletics-focused even with all the rules about shortened seasons and other rules unique to NESCAC.  How many years in a row did Williams win that Directors Cup or whatever it is?  I think the Ivies are similar that way.  I don't that is true to the same degree even at similar schools outside the NESCAC like Swat and Haverford (even though they had had some obvious recent success).  And then there's a Reed.  So one way at least some of the NESCACs are similar to Messiah/Calvin is in the role of athletics in the institutions at large and the degree to which the identities of the places are impacted by valuing athletics.  Now, then, what comes first is interesting.  Schools might not have an inherent predilection for athletics, but maybe a coach or some other dynamics creates one, and then that carries on.

On a more personal level, I am about as far from an evangelical Christian as one can get.  I was raised Protestant and then morphed into an existentialist leaning atheist.  When I have gotten to know true Christians well (both in family and out of family) there has been much I have admired.  I have found many to be among the most genuine, authentic and giving people I've ever known.  I admire their fidelity to their beliefs and their values.  That said, there is an awkwardness about mentioning or inquiring about certain things.  And there comes a point where, ironically or not given the current political climate, there truly are different realities, and we are seeing more and more that there is less and less of a reality that we can agree on....that basically truth becomes a function of power or overriding sentiment or influences that are so ingrained we can't even see them.  We are living in a time when there are people who don't believe the Holocaust happened or that Russia did anything or that people should be able to love who they love.  I get confused, because I see a couple of Messiah folks here with superb analytical skills, who can make cogent, fine-grained arguments based solely on reason and logic.  I wonder what would happen if we spent days talking about the Holocaust or how you can believe in a God (a Christian God) that allows such things as "part of HIS plan."  My best and worst experiences at Davidson happened in the same class....a phenomenal course on the Holocaust more powerful than any class I had and then at the end the professor imo ruined and spoiled it by chalking it up to God's plan and not being able to see God's plan but you just have to trust that he (or she) knows what he's doing.  Sure, while reading Weisel and watching videos of thousands of dead, naked, emaciated bodies being pushed by machines into mass graves.
There were brilliant students in that class far smarter than me and yet I could not believe how easily they fell for simple, convenient answers in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  And there are other things....100 years from now (assuming the planet is still here) the reality of different sexualities will be a given to the same degree that we now believe African Americans should have equal rights.  Some things now seemingly debatable and so controversial years from now will be "facts" in a way that no one even questions, on a par with 2+2 = 4.  Religion's uneasy relationship with progress in science is something that interests me.  Anyway, I have a profound respect for places like Messiah and its alums, but I know there's a point where I just don't get it.

Online Gregory Sager

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2019, 09:47:59 pm »
And why Messiah and Calvin....and not other religious schools?  A poster in recent years has touted and tried to boost Grove City and Geneva.  Hope may now be back in business.  This is where I think we do find overlap in terms of variables between the best soccer programs at religious schools and the best more secular institutions.  They either had have or have created an identify that even foes acknowledge.  When I hear the words 'Messiah' or 'Calvin' I think of soccer excellence.  Same with the leading seculars.  An interesting question that was raised is what would happen to different programs if coaches left.  I've always thought that there are programs like UK bball, Nebraska and Alabama football that will thrive regardless of coaches.  And that is because of the massive identification of the populous with those schools where the very identity of folks in Kentucky is so tied to the bball program.  I think of Duke and UNC bball like that, and Ohio State and Michigan football, etc.  And I think of Messiah, Calvin and OWU like that (and yeah, I mean OWU because of their tradition and not because they are peers of the other two in terms of religion).  But who knows.  Nebraska is in an extended dip.  UCLA and Indiana have the name and tradition but have not kept pace with other stalwarts like UK, Duke and UNC in bball.  So eras can end.  But I'd still bet that Messiah will make sure the program stays strong, just like I think OWU and the OWU alums will keep OWU competitive if and when Martin ever retires.  I feel like I'm rambling, but it's worth asking what a Messiah and a Tufts or Amherst have in common...and there is something there for both that involves tradition, expectation, success breeding success...

I don't think that your comparison across divisional lines has much validity to it. Tradition? Sure. But there is no such thing as a "massive identification of the populace" affecting Calvin and Messiah and Ohio Wesleyan. Those schools don't even register on the consciousness of the average person who lives five miles away from campus, much less of the populace in general. Like the vast majority of D3 schools, they exist off of the radar of the media and of popular culture.

I think that if you're looking to define long-term success in a specific sports program at those schools (i.e., men's soccer), then you're looking at good coaching hires as the best explanation, coaches that stay for a protracted amount of time, understand the school and its mission and how to present it well to prospects and their parents, and who know how to develop and sustain success. If you're looking at across-the-board athletics success on this level (e.g., Calvin, as well as several of the NESCAC schools), then you're talking about a combination of institutional resources and (more importantly) institutional support as well as a knack for spotting and hiring coaching talent. And I suspect that there are some schools that have built up a specific sports niche so well (e.g., Messiah in soccer, both men and women, but also North Central in men's cross-country, Wartburg in wrestling, Kenyon in both men's and women's swimming, UW-LaCrosse in both indoor and outdoor track & field for both genders, Methodist in men's and women's golf, Mount Union in football, etc.) that that specific sport (or two gender-complementary sports) will enjoy the sort of special institutional support that can sustain the program beyond a coaching change.

On a more personal level, I am about as far from an evangelical Christian as one can get.  I was raised Protestant and then morphed into an existentialist leaning atheist.  When I have gotten to know true Christians well (both in family and out of family) there has been much I have admired.  I have found many to be among the most genuine, authentic and giving people I've ever known.  I admire their fidelity to their beliefs and their values.  That said, there is an awkwardness about mentioning or inquiring about certain things.  And there comes a point where, ironically or not given the current political climate, there truly are different realities, and we are seeing more and more that there is less and less of a reality that we can agree on....that basically truth becomes a function of power or overriding sentiment or influences that are so ingrained we can't even see them.  We are living in a time when there are people who don't believe the Holocaust happened or that Russia did anything or that people should be able to love who they love.  I get confused, because I see a couple of Messiah folks here with superb analytical skills, who can make cogent, fine-grained arguments based solely on reason and logic.  I wonder what would happen if we spent days talking about the Holocaust or how you can believe in a God (a Christian God) that allows such things as "part of HIS plan."  My best and worst experiences at Davidson happened in the same class....a phenomenal course on the Holocaust more powerful than any class I had and then at the end the professor imo ruined and spoiled it by chalking it up to God's plan and not being able to see God's plan but you just have to trust that he (or she) knows what he's doing.  Sure, while reading Weisel and watching videos of thousands of dead, naked, emaciated bodies being pushed by machines into mass graves.
There were brilliant students in that class far smarter than me and yet I could not believe how easily they fell for simple, convenient answers in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  And there are other things....100 years from now (assuming the planet is still here) the reality of different sexualities will be a given to the same degree that we now believe African Americans should have equal rights.  Some things now seemingly debatable and so controversial years from now will be "facts" in a way that no one even questions, on a par with 2+2 = 4.  Religion's uneasy relationship with progress in science is something that interests me.  Anyway, I have a profound respect for places like Messiah and its alums, but I know there's a point where I just don't get it.

I don't think that this is an appropriate venue for this sort of thing. Having said that, I'm well aware that I'm just one person, and that I have no more authority than any other poster. I don't have editorial control over this board; Pat Coleman does, and he's the only person who can unilaterally shut down a discussion. But I don't think that a polemic regarding matters of faith (either pro or con) is in keeping with either the purpose or the spirit of d3boards.com.
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline PaulNewman

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2019, 10:11:11 pm »
Greg, I wish you could be a little more generous.  I obviously was comparing only in the sense of having a tradition and building a culture where when people think about a school they also think about the activity....and there are some schools where the tradition would survive a coach change and where the school is invested in keeping a strong program (I think like you feel about Wheaton)....and clearly some do not get past a coach change.  I think what the differences are is interesting.

As for the other stuff, I am absolutely fine with it being removed.  We knew there was some nervousness about whether to even get near the topic and about how much to say, but yeah, not a big deal to me.

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #24 on: December 04, 2019, 02:08:13 am »
Greg, I wish you could be a little more generous.  I obviously was comparing only in the sense of having a tradition and building a culture where when people think about a school they also think about the activity....and there are some schools where the tradition would survive a coach change and where the school is invested in keeping a strong program (I think like you feel about Wheaton)....and clearly some do not get past a coach change.  I think what the differences are is interesting.

Well, that part I have no problem with. I think that I made it obvious that tradition is important when maintaining a long-term success story in a particular sport, although I think that ultimately it's quality coaching, a keen sense of who to hire to run a program, and institutional support that keeps that success story going. I just don't think that the whole D1 "massive identification of the populace" aspect has anything to do with D3. The three NCAA divisions really do exist in different worlds.
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline PaulNewman

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #25 on: December 04, 2019, 09:48:29 am »
In the spirit of looking for common ground and not just scouring for where someone can be corrected and mildly chastised, I want to clarify what I was trying to say above a little more.

My point about top soccer D3s (or D3s with a tradition of excellence in one or more other sports) was not that the size of the fan base or amount of media attention is comparable, but rather that for those who are in fact serious fans and have affiliations with programs those fans can be just as fanatical as fans of big-time D1 programs.  Even though I was raised in North Carolina I grew up as (and still am) a huge UK bball fan which goes back to the mid-60s listening to UK games with my Dad in his car in our carport (because that's what you had to get WHAS out of Louisville to listen to Cawood Ledford, the voice of the 'Cats.  And as a fan I despised UNC and Duke.  Anyway, nowadays, I feel a Kenyon loss every bit as much or more as a UK loss, and I have sensed over the years here on this site that many of us feel our team's successes and failures as deeply as an Ohio State or Alabama football fan.  I would guess that Falconer feels a Mesiha los as much or more than his favorite D1 or favorite pro sports team (if he has those).  And the tradition that some of these D3s have in a sport WITHIN THEIR OWN SPHERES, while much smaller and not blasted on ESPN, can be just as strong.  I do think we can ask what programs might be more likely to continue their traditions with a coaching change -- where the culture of the program at a school now to some degree does carry beyond a particular coach and may continue.  We could always be wrong because of variables and events we can't anticipate, but on balance I would expect Messiah to have a higher chance of continuing than a Tufts....and in part because those affiliated with the program and the administration want to see it continue.  I would say the same about OWU.  Now that could happen at Tufts, especially if the alums and administration make that a priority.  Hence, my question about how some D1 programs with proud histories basically carry on without a blip (UNC bball for example) while others (UCLA) don't.  Maybe it's just random, but which ever way those changes are absorbed or not I do think is a bigger deal at places where there is a proud tradition with people around it invested in continuation.  And to some degree there are conferences where athletics are a bigger deal than others, like the NESCAC, and that becomes a tradition that impacts individual schools.

Online Gregory Sager

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #26 on: December 04, 2019, 12:29:48 pm »
Oh, I can definitely get behind that. I just don't think that a D1 comparison is necessary, because plenty of that type of diehard mentality exists at the D3 level -- always has, always will -- except that it's among a much smaller fanbase and exists outside of media attention.

I can speak from direct experience on that, because both social media and word of mouth informs me of just how passionate NPU's alumni fan base is about the school's men's soccer program. The motto of Foster's Finest, the NPU student section for men's soccer, is "North Park 'til I die", which heavily implies that their passion and loyalty is expected to continue after graduation. A surprising percentage of the home crowd at every Vikings game at Hedstrand Field consists of alumni -- surprising, because NPU has such a geographically diverse alumni base -- and a very large percentage of the audience we have online for webstreaming consists of alumni as well. And they are very vocal in their support on social media. The player alumni base, even more so -- a lot of the former Vikings who live in Chicagoland are present at games, and there's barely enough shirts to go around at the alumni game every August, in which players have been known to fly in from Sweden to participate.

I'm certain that most, if not all, of the top programs in D3 men's soccer have similar tales to tell.
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline Falconer

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #27 on: December 04, 2019, 04:03:20 pm »
The North Park men's soccer program doesn't tend to pursue the same American-based players that Wheaton, Messiah, and Calvin pursue. Calvin looks mostly at Michigan-based kids (with a few from Illinois and Ohio), and it uses the feeder system of Christian Reformed Church high schools in western Michigan to a great extent -- although the CRC feeder schools don't play as pronounced a role in supplying various Calvin sports teams with student-athletes as they used to. Messiah seems mostly focused on evangelical kids from the eastern seaboard, whereas Wheaton, as in all sports, seeks out evangelical kids from all over the country. NPU is certainly not averse to pursuing evangelical kids, of course, but the school has always followed a different enrollment philosophy than has Wheaton, f'rinstance; Wheaton requires all of its students to be evangelicals, whereas North Park doesn't. NPU is an evangelical Christian school that makes no bones about its nature and mission, but it does not require its students to share those beliefs.
Very interesting information, Mr Sager, thank you for sharing it. Here's my comments:

(1) Calvin is unlike Wheaton, Messiah, NPU, and most other Christian colleges, in that it has an unusually close relationship with its founding denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America (basically the American sister of a Dutch denomination). To the best of my knowledge, the college and adjacent seminary are both actually owned (present tense) either by the CRC itself, or else by one of its synodical bodies, known as a "classis." If this is no longer true, or was never true, I hope someone will correct me. In practice, this means that a faculty member cannot receive tenure unless/until he/she becomes an active member of a local CRC church, or one of the very few other denominations that the CRC views as very similar. Junior faculty do not (yet) have to comply with this expectation, but at some point they must in order to keep their positions. I know a very gifted scientist from an Anabaptist background who was hired by Calvin maybe 15 years ago, but she left a few years later for this reason, and now teaches at a public university in another state. There is no similar expectation on the students, who do not even need to believe in God: I know a recent Calvin alum who has identified as an atheist since before starting HS. He has no regrets about his Calvin education (he thinks it was of high quality), but he never bought into the faith-affirming nature of the school.

At Wheaton, by comparison, faculty must be Protestants of one or another denomination. No Roman Catholics or Orthodox believers are hired, and anyone who converts is asked to leave. A fairly recent instance is well known: a faculty member who became a Catholic resigned from Wheaton and took a similar position at Mount St. Mary's University in MD. I don't know whether a similar expectation exists for students at Wheaton, but many other Christian colleges also hire only Protestants. The standard label "Christian" college usually defaults to "evangelical" or "charismatic Protestant" in its actual practice, despite the fact that some seriously Catholic colleges (such as the U of Steubenville) are part of the umbrella organization that includes Calvin, Wheaton, Messiah, NPU, and about 100 institutions in all.

Messiah, on the other hand, hires faculty from across the Christian world, including Catholic and Orthodox believers. They aren't unique in this respect, but they are much less common. Consequently, the student body also includes Catholic and Orthodox believers--in fact, the pastor of the local Catholic parish is a Messiah alum, several Messiah employees belong to his church, and when he was (formerly) the education officer for the Harrisburg diocese, he recommended Messiah for Catholic families who wanted Christian (including Catholic) higher education in this region. At least a few current or recent soccer players are Catholics. So, presumably, the talent pool is larger for Messiah than for Calvin or Wheaton.

(2) The Christian schools feeding Calvin are mostly the ones Mr Sager identified--the CRC schools in Michigan. The "Christian" in their names specifically means "Christian" Reformed Church. As a group of institutions, those schools go back to the 19th century, greatly pre-dating the far more numerous "Christian" schools that have sprung up all over the nation since the 1960s. Their educational attitudes and specific religious teachings are often dissimilar to the more recent movement. They began more for positive, than negative, reasons, if I may put it that way. They were formed to pass on a particular religious vision, while vigorously engaging the broader world of ideas and beliefs outside the CRC communities. Many of the younger generation of Christian high schools, on the other hand, were formed in order to be "safe" places from the encroachment of the "evils" of the outside world, in the context of the great social unrest and increasingly secular mindset of America since the early 1960s. Many of those schools teach creationism (for example), though many others do not. Mostly, it's the younger group of Christian schools that feeds Messiah, though Messiah itself long predates their movement and educational attitudes at Messiah are pretty similar to those at Calvin--I've never heard anyone say (for example) that they were taught creationism at Messiah, whereas creationism is taught at places like Liberty or Cedarville. But, the very strong Christian atmosphere at Messiah still attracts lots of students from those high schools, even though Messiah certainly isn't Liberty.

(3) Yes, Wheaton draws a national student body, unlike Calvin or Messiah. In its academic profile, Wheaton is basically a NESCAC school: very competitive, very liberal arts (engineering and nursing majors can't be completed entirely at Wheaton in four years), and very much into athletics. Plenty of students from the non-CRC Christian high schools attend Wheaton, but they also draw quite a few from the same elite private academies that send students to NESCAC, and many public school students as well, not to mention foreign students. Messiah gets something like 60% of its students from one state (PA), and most of the rest from adjacent states. Calvin might have a similar geographical focus.

However, Falcon soccer players come from a much wider geographical area than the typical student. I've never mentioned this particular fact here, but I've long felt that one crude measure of the overall quality of a given Falcon team is the integer value of the number of states represented on the roster. In a "down" recruiting year, the players tend to be mostly from PA; in an "up" year (for example, the current FR and SO classes), they tend to be from a lot more states. I will leave it to others to take this much further and evaluate its reliability.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2019, 04:06:32 pm by Falconer »

Online Gregory Sager

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #28 on: December 04, 2019, 04:46:10 pm »
Good comments, Falconer. A few of my own in return:

(1) Calvin is unlike Wheaton, Messiah, NPU, and most other Christian colleges, in that it has an unusually close relationship with its founding denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America (basically the American sister of a Dutch denomination). To the best of my knowledge, the college and adjacent seminary are both actually owned (present tense) either by the CRC itself, or else by one of its synodical bodies, known as a "classis."

Actually, NPU is very much like Calvin in that sense. It has a close (albeit ambiguous) relationship to its founding denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, and until the reign of the last president (with whom you are familiar) as much as a third of the NPU undergraduate student body consisted of "Covies". Both North Park University and North Park Theological Seminary, which is on the NPU campus and functions as a semi-autonomous institution within the larger university, are owned by the Evangelical Covenant Church, which is now based out by O'Hare Airport but which used to be headquartered on the other side of River Park from NPU's Holmgren Athletic Complex (which includes the soccer pitch, Hedstrand Field).

If this is no longer true, or was never true, I hope someone will correct me. In practice, this means that a faculty member cannot receive tenure unless/until he/she becomes an active member of a local CRC church, or one of the very few other denominations that the CRC views as very similar. Junior faculty do not (yet) have to comply with this expectation, but at some point they must in order to keep their positions. I know a very gifted scientist from an Anabaptist background who was hired by Calvin maybe 15 years ago, but she left a few years later for this reason, and now teaches at a public university in another state.

That's an interesting point. I have two nephews and a niece who are recent Calvin grads, and I'll have to ask one of them if this rule is still in effect.

There is no similar expectation on the students, who do not even need to believe in God: I know a recent Calvin alum who has identified as an atheist since before starting HS. He has no regrets about his Calvin education (he thinks it was of high quality), but he never bought into the faith-affirming nature of the school.

At Wheaton, by comparison, faculty must be Protestants of one or another denomination. No Roman Catholics or Orthodox believers are hired, and anyone who converts is asked to leave. A fairly recent instance is well known: a faculty member who became a Catholic resigned from Wheaton and took a similar position at Mount St. Mary's University in MD. I don't know whether a similar expectation exists for students at Wheaton, but many other Christian colleges also hire only Protestants. The standard label "Christian" college usually defaults to "evangelical" or "charismatic Protestant" in its actual practice, despite the fact that some seriously Catholic colleges (such as the U of Steubenville) are part of the umbrella organization that includes Calvin, Wheaton, Messiah, NPU, and about 100 institutions in all.

Messiah, on the other hand, hires faculty from across the Christian world, including Catholic and Orthodox believers. They aren't unique in this respect, but they are much less common. Consequently, the student body also includes Catholic and Orthodox believers--in fact, the pastor of the local Catholic parish is a Messiah alum, several Messiah employees belong to his church, and when he was (formerly) the education officer for the Harrisburg diocese, he recommended Messiah for Catholic families who wanted Christian (including Catholic) higher education in this region. At least a few current or recent soccer players are Catholics. So, presumably, the talent pool is larger for Messiah than for Calvin or Wheaton.

NPU has a similar hiring policy for faculty and staff. And, as I said earlier, NPU likewise has an open admissions policy with regard to creedal affiliation (or non-affiliation, as the case may be).

(2) The Christian schools feeding Calvin are mostly the ones Mr Sager identified--the CRC schools in Michigan. The "Christian" in their names specifically means "Christian" Reformed Church. As a group of institutions, those schools go back to the 19th century, greatly pre-dating the far more numerous "Christian" schools that have sprung up all over the nation since the 1960s. Their educational attitudes and specific religious teachings are often dissimilar to the more recent movement. They began more for positive, than negative, reasons, if I may put it that way. They were formed to pass on a particular religious vision, while vigorously engaging the broader world of ideas and beliefs outside the CRC communities. Many of the younger generation of Christian high schools, on the other hand, were formed in order to be "safe" places from the encroachment of the "evils" of the outside world, in the context of the great social unrest and increasingly secular mindset of America since the early 1960s. Many of those schools teach creationism (for example), though many others do not. Mostly, it's the younger group of Christian schools that feeds Messiah, though Messiah itself long predates their movement and educational attitudes at Messiah are pretty similar to those at Calvin--I've never heard anyone say (for example) that they were taught creationism at Messiah, whereas creationism is taught at places like Liberty or Cedarville. But, the very strong Christian atmosphere at Messiah still attracts lots of students from those high schools, even though Messiah certainly isn't Liberty.

(3) Yes, Wheaton draws a national student body, unlike Calvin or Messiah. In its academic profile, Wheaton is basically a NESCAC school: very competitive, very liberal arts (engineering and nursing majors can't be completed entirely at Wheaton in four years), and very much into athletics. Plenty of students from the non-CRC Christian high schools attend Wheaton, but they also draw quite a few from the same elite private academies that send students to NESCAC, and many public school students as well, not to mention foreign students. Messiah gets something like 60% of its students from one state (PA), and most of the rest from adjacent states. Calvin might have a similar geographical focus.

However, Falcon soccer players come from a much wider geographical area than the typical student. I've never mentioned this particular fact here, but I've long felt that one crude measure of the overall quality of a given Falcon team is the integer value of the number of states represented on the roster. In a "down" recruiting year, the players tend to be mostly from PA; in an "up" year (for example, the current FR and SO classes), they tend to be from a lot more states. I will leave it to others to take this much further and evaluate its reliability.

At North Park, fans have often drawn a similar crude measure based upon the number of Swedes on the roster of any given Vikings team. (It would now be Scandinavians in general, of course.) I've always felt that that's an often-inaccurate barometer, but there's certainly no denying that the program's recently-elevated success coincides with an all-time high in terms of both the number of Swedes and Norwegians on the roster in general and the number of Swedes and Norwegians in the starting lineup in particular. Even that, however, is a crude measure because it assumes qualitiative distinctions that aren't necessarily accurate. Just as there are Messiah players from outside Pennsylvania that are better than their fellow out-of-state teammates, and Falcons who hail from the Keystone State who are better than their out-of-state teammates, so are there North Park imports from Scandinavia that are better than their fellow Scandinavian teammates, and there are Vikings from the U.S. who are better than most of the Scandinavians.
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline Falconer

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Re: The Niche of the Religious-based D3 Institution
« Reply #29 on: December 04, 2019, 06:35:07 pm »
That said, there is an awkwardness about mentioning or inquiring about certain things.
Paul, I agree with Mr Sager that this forum isn't the right place to talk about "certain things," such as those you mentioned in the post I'm quoting. However, personally I am happy to discuss some of those things in private space. I sent you a message via the board, inviting you to contact me, but I am unsure it will reach you, b/c I also tried sending it to the email address in your profile and it bounced back. So, if you fail to receive it, and you want to make contact, please update the address in your profile and I'll try again--and let me know here that you did so, since I am not currently set up to receive emails from people here. If you prefer to ignore the invitation, of course that's to be respected and I'll fahgettaboutit, as they say in NY.