CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- One of the nation's best NCAA Division III conferences today positions itself for a future as notable as its past. Honoring its heritage in Iowa and its recent expansion outside the state, the American Rivers Conference brand will build on the academic and athletic success provided by its legacy, the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Today's announcement culminates discussions within the conference's Presidents Council that began when the conference reached beyond its borders more than two years ago. The Iowa-based institutions Buena Vista University (Storm Lake), Central College (Pella), Coe College (Cedar Rapids), the University of Dubuque, Loras College (Dubuque), Luther College (Decorah), Simpson College (Indianola) and Wartburg College (Waverly) welcomed Nebraska Wesleyan University (Lincoln) on July 1, 2016.
"This is a milestone day for our conference," said Dr. Joshua Merchant, President of Buena Vista University and Chair of the conference's Presidents Council. "Our name will change, but our commitment to competitive athletics as part of a well-rounded educational experience will not."
The conference employed Skye Design Studios (www.sdsbranding.com), a national leader in sport branding and identity design, for the various phases of the exercise that produced the new name and "Dynamic R"-focused mark. "I am honored, on behalf of the Presidents Council, to bring this new identity to the conference's community of student-athletes, coaches, administrators, alumni and fans," said commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen. "This announcement caps off months of careful thought by scores of people on our campuses."
The new name centers on key geographic features of the conference's birthplace. The Mississippi to the east, the most famous river in America and one of the most famous in the world, and the Missouri to the west, the country's longest river, make up most of the State of Iowa's borders. The conference's regional and national reach is reflected in the name. Not only has expanded membership brought a new era to the conference, some campuses' out-of-state student-athletes number is upwards of 70%.
"Boldly asserting 'American' shows that our rosters and general student bodies already include young people from all over the country and will continue to do so," said Yrigoyen.
The conference also plans to emphasize, specifically through the conference's and institutions' Student-Athlete Advisory Committees, environmental / clean-water awareness. Service projects, such as river or river park clean-ups, will have a deeper meaning for those who compete in the American Rivers Conference.
The conference is coming off one of its best years ever. Wartburg (wrestling) and Nebraska Wesleyan (men's basketball) won Division III national titles. Twenty-six student-athletes, from seven conference schools, were honored as CoSIDA Academic All-Americans. All-time, the conference boasts 38 national team champions as six of the nine schools have taken home NCAA hardware. One-hundred forty student-athletes have earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships throughout that program's history.
The Conference's origin dates back to December 8, 1922, when representatives from 12 colleges gathered to establish the "Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Association." Charter members Buena Vista, Central, Luther and Simpson have remained throughout. Loras was a member from 1926-54 and rejoined in 1986. Dubuque joined in 1929. Wartburg joined in 1937. Coe became a member in 1997. Nebraska Wesleyan gained admission in 2016.
One of four charter members of the Iowa Conference, Simpson won 86 league titles, crowned 79 league MVPs and brought home 68 coach of the year awards.