Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

What’s to know: Introduction to Northwest Conference

Northwest Conference (NWC)

NCAA Division III

Established 1926

Original members: 6 (Willamette University, Whitman College, Pacific University, University of Puget Sound, Linfield College,  College of Idaho)

Current member institutions: Lewis & Clark, Linfield, George Fox, Pacific, Willamette, Pacific Lutheran, Puget Sound, Whitman, Whitworth

What’s to know?

The NWC sponsored varsity sports exclusively for men for almost 60 years until 1984, when it joined with the Women’s Conference of Independent Colleges and became the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges. In 1996, the conference joined the NCAA and shortened its name to the Northwest Conference. Schools have come and gone from the conference over the years. The most recent alteration for the conference came in 2010, when Menlo College left the conference after a five-year stint as an associate member in football.

Each year, the conference awards one school the McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports Trophy, which is based upon a points system that recognizes the school that has excelled across all fields of varsity competition. The trophy is named for Jane McIlroy (Linfield) and John Lewis (Willamette). Whitworth University has won the last four McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports trophies. In the 2010-11 season, Whitman finished in sixth place: even though it competes in only 14 varsity sports: earning a school-record 161 points.


George Fox University

Newberg, Ore.

Founded 1891

Mascot: Bruins

Varsity sports: 15

What’s to know?

Originally founded in 1885 as a Quaker school, today George Fox is a Christian university of professional studies and liberal arts and sciences. Academically, students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. Athletically, the Bruins have won district or conference titles in 10 different sports over the last 10 years. On a national level, the men’s baseball team won the NCAA DIII World Series title in 2004. Then, in 2009, women’s basketball went undefeated en route to winning the NCAA DIII national title, which was the first DIII title for any women’s program west of the Rocky Mountains.

Herbert Hoover and Ken Carter are notable alumni for the Bruins. Hoover was the 31st  president of the United States, while Carter inspired the movie “Coach Carter” for coaching at his other alma mater, Richmond High School.


Lewis & Clark College

Portland, Ore.

Founded 1867

Mascot: Pioneers

Varsity sports: 19

What’s to know?

Lewis & Clark is a private school made up of the undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences, School of Law and Graduate School of Education and Counseling. The college was founded to provide higher education for the Presbyterian pioneers of the Willamette Valley. It is one of four colleges in Oregon that predate Oregon’s statehood and is one of the few pioneer-era schools to be coeducational since its first class, which graduated in 1873. Originally, the school was called Albany College, changing its name to Lewis & Clark College in 1942 and its mascot to the Pioneers in 1946.

One in five Lewis & Clark undergraduates is a varsity student-athlete. The college is known not just for its varsity athletics but also for its club and intramural sports. These include several IM sports that have been invented by the Pioneers, including Ninja and Wolvetch.


Linfield College

McMinnville, Ore.

Founded 1849

Mascot: Wildcats

Varsity sports: 16

What’s to know?

Linfield is a private undergraduate liberal arts and sciences college. The school began in 1849 as the Oregon Baptist Educational Society in Oregon City, then becoming the Baptist College at McMinnville and McMinnville College before receiving the name Linfield College in 1922. The wife of the school’s namesake, Rev. George Fisher Linfield, donated the property to promote Christian education, as well as to house a memorial for her husband.

Athletically, Linfield boasts a successful football program. The Wildcats football team has the longest streak of winning seasons in all levels of the NCAA, with 57 consecutive seasons as of 2010-11. The college has won four national football titles: the latest in 2004: as well as two national baseball titles (1966, 1971) and two softball national championships (2007, 2011).


Pacific Lutheran University

Tacoma, Wash.

Founded 1890

Mascot: Lutes

Varsity sports: 20

What’s to know?

In 1890, Scandinavian immigrants founded PLU with the purpose of furthering Lutheran higher education in the Pacific Northwest. Showing that strong ties remain between PLU and its Scandinavian heritage, some of the school’s most prestigious visitors over the years have been Norwegian and Swedish monarchs, as well as members of Stortinget (the Norwegian Parliament). PLU is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and gained university status in 1960. Academically, the school is known for its arts program and media organizations: its Society of Professional Journalists is nationally recognized and KCNS is one of only a few entirely student-run television stations in Washington. The international program is a big seller, and PLU is the first American university to have students studying abroad on all seven continents simultaneously.

PLU is also home to athletic success, exemplified by coach Frosty Westering, who ranks ninth in wins among all college football coaches and  holds the NAIA record for coaching victories with 305 in his career. The Lutes have won four national titles with Westering at the helm. Football isn’t the only successful sport at PLU: No other school in the NWC has won the All-Sports Trophy as many times as the Lutes.


Pacific University

Forest Grove, Ore.

Founded 1849

Mascot: Boxers

Varsity sports: 20

What’s to know?

Pacific University began in March 1848 as Tualatin Academy, which evolved from an orphanage that had been founded by Tabitha Brown. In 1846, Brown emigrated via the Applegate Trail  to Oregon, where she, along with Rev. Harvey L. Clark,  helped to start the institution as a home for the orphans of the Applegate Trail party. The first teacher at Pacific was Eliza Hart Spalding, a member of the Whitman Mission. Today, Pacific is a small, private, independent liberal arts school that offers undergraduate and graduate education. Pacific was a founding member of the NWC and became the most recent addition to the NWC’s football program with the reinstating of the team in 2010. When the National Collegiate Wrestling Association created a women’s division in 2007, the Boxers established one of the five varsity women’s wrestling programs in the nation.

University of Puget Sound

Tacoma, Wash.

Founded 1888

Mascot: Loggers

Varsity sports: 21

What’s to know?

UPS is the only nationally ranked private liberal arts college in Western Washington and one of only 17 such institutions west of the Mississippi River. UPS was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church and has seen vast changes in its national perception since its establishment, moving from a school marked by moral conviction to an institution recognized for its academic and athletic success.

Although the name “Loggers” has been the face of UPS varsity athletics for years, the school is in the midst of trying to establish “Grizz” as the new mascot in an attempt to mirror the university’s support for equal rights for men and women. The 1976 UPS men’s soccer program helped jump-start the career of former women’s national team coach Bruce Arena. UPS has been one of the most successful teams in the NWC in recent decades: The women’s soccer program has now won the NWC title for 10 consecutive years; the women’s swim team bested that mark by winning 11 consecutive NWC titles from 1997-2007, which remains an NWC record; and the Loggers won the NWC All-Sports Trophy in 2006 and 2007.


Whitman College

Walla Walla, Wash.

Founded 1883

Mascot: Missionaries

Varsity sports: 14

What’s to know?

Unlike many of its fellow NWC members, Whitman is a non-sectarian liberal arts college. The school was initially founded as a seminary in 1859 by a territorial legislative charter before becoming a four-year institution in 1883. Academically, Whitman holds its students to the highest standards and was the first school in the United States to require comprehensive exams for graduation. In 2011, Whitman was ranked 36th of 650 institutions on Forbes’ America’s Best Colleges List, the highest of any NWC member school.

Athletically, Whitman is home to sports on the varsity, intramural and club levels. Over 70 percent of students participate in IM sports and over 20 percent are varsity student-athletes. The Missionaries are the only NWC member without an intercollegiate football team, an issue that sparked a great deal of debate when the program was cut in 1977. In 2010-11, Whitman claimed its only NWC title ever with its championship in men’s tennis. Recent national success has come on the club level, with the cycling team winning the NCAA DII national title in 2009-10 and the men’s Ultimate Frisbee teams competing at the NCAA DI Nationals last spring.


Whitworth University

Spokane, Wash.

Founded 1890

Mascot: Pirates

Varsity sports: 20

What’s to know?

A private Christian liberal arts school, Whitworth University offers students undergraduate and graduate education. George Whitworth established the institution in 1883 as the Sumner Academy in Sumner, Wash. After becoming Whitworth College in 1890, the school moved to Tacoma in 1899 before finally settling in Spokane in 1914. During their time at Whitworth, students abide by two sets of rules and traditions: The Big 3 is that alcohol, violence and cohabitation are prohibited and the Little 3 is to catch a virgin pinecone, break a dish in Saga and get hit in the head with a Frisbee. The Little 3 are all tasks that students are supposed to accomplish by the end of their senior year.

The Pirates have been one of the most successful members of the NWC in recent years. Whitworth has won the NWC All-Sports Trophy for four consecutive years and five times in the past seven years. In 2011, men’s basketball was the top-ranked team nationally prior to being upset by Whitman and in the final regular-season poll. Women’s swimming won NWC championships in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and finished as high as 10th at the NCAA DII championships (2008). Women’s tennis has won three consecutive conference titles. Whitworth has also recently claimed Coach of the Year titles in 11 varsity sports at the NWC, regional and national levels.

Willamette University

Salem, Ore.

Founded 1842

Mascot: Bearcats

Varsity sports: 20

What’s to know?

Willamette is the oldest university in the western United States and is a member of the Annapolis Group. The university was originally called the Oregon Institute and was an unaffiliated outgrowth of the Methodist Mission. In 1852, the Oregon Institute became Wallamet University, followed by the school’s current name, Willamette University. In the late 1800s, Willamette established the Pacific Northwest’s first medical and law schools and went on to start a sister school relationship with the Tokyo International University of America. After Whitman, Willamette is the highest-ranked NWC school in Forbes’ poll, ranking 96th of 650 institutions.

Athletically, Willamette is a founding member of the NWC. In 1993, the Bearcats won its first and only team national championship: the NAIA DII men’s basketball title. Individually, Willamette has been home to NCAA DIII champions in track and field and cross country (Nick Symmonds and Sarah Zerzan, respectively). In 1997, Liz Heaston became the first woman to play in a collegiate football game when she helped the Bearcats defeat Linfield College en route to a school-best finish (national runner-up).

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