Get ready for a new era of Biola Athletics
Athletic director Bethany Miller shares about her program’s transition to NCAA DII. | pcreative.com
A process that took weeks, months and even years of extensive planning and paperwork reached a major milestone with a single kick. When Biola women’s soccer started their game at Western Oregon University on Aug. 31, it signified a new beginning for Biola’s entire athletics program. As part of the second year of their three-year transition into Division II of the NCAA, this season marks Biola’s first round of competitions against DII opponents as a member of the PacWest Conference.
That holistic development
Nobody knows how hard this process has been more than athletic director Bethany Miller. According to Miller, the athletic department processed roughly 12,000 forms last year, and expects to process over 20,000 this year.
“The workload is higher, but we also believe very strongly in the philosophical fit,” Miller said. “Our mission statement for Biola Athletics in a shortened sense is developing our student athletes to their full potential—that’s spiritually, athletically and academically. That holistic development, that’s [the NCAA’s] philosophy as well.”
The NCAA also possesses much stricter compliance requirements, a major factor behind the increased paperwork. Miller emphasized the importance of not only meeting the new standards but also developing a reputation of excelling in that area.
“We at Biola want to be a top-tier model institution in the NCAA and have the highest level of integrity with our full compliance program, so we’re doing things that are very efficient,” Miller said.
Miller also wants Biola Athletics’ image to grow among the general student population as well. More than ever, her program is making a concerted effort this academic year to get students involved in athletic events. Some of the new initiatives as part of the upcoming “Renewing Rivalries” promotional campaign include: T-shirts for the student body by Biola’s new exclusive apparel partner Adidas, a new pep band, increased roles for the cheer and dance squads and more promotions with sponsors like Chick-Fil-A and Pieology. Students can also look forward to Spirit Week in early February, which will culminate in the biggest event of the year: Biola’s first men’s basketball game against archrival Azusa Pacific University since 2013.
“We’re bringing the community into Biola and we’re really trying to be this department that can facilitate and open an environment for students, staff, faculty and La Mirada and greater external community that can be fun, positive and family-friendly,” Miller said. “That’s our hope, and that’s our goal, and we’re always open to feedback from students about what they’d like to see at events.”
Of course, the main burden of generating more student interest in athletic teams will fall on the student athletes themselves, both on and off the field.
“We believe that our student athletes continuing to put in the work to excelling and also continuing to build relationships across campus, and step into leadership as they have the ability with their peers, so we know that we can continue to lead and grow,” Miller said.
maintaining the enthusiasm
So far, so good: the Eagles’ men’s and women’s soccer teams and women’s volleyball team are a combined 9-4-1 as of Sept. 13, and the men’s cross country team finished first in the Biola Invitational on Sept. 9.
“We’re thrilled. We think we’ve got very competitive [teams] under excellent coaching leadership, and we’re excited for things to come,” Miller said. “We think we’re making the transition well… the PacWest competition will be very strong and we’re excited for that challenge.”
Both soccer teams packed out the bleachers and left standing room only at Al Barbour Field during their first home games, and volleyball’s home opener against Point Loma Nazarene University on Sept. 23 could have a similar effect on Chase Gymnasium.
Despite the early success, maintaining the enthusiasm for athletics could prove difficult. When asked what would make the next nine months a success for Biola Athletics, Miller turned her focus back to her department’s main goal.
“We are about the holistic development of our student athletes,” Miller said. “If our student athletes are reaching their full potential athletically, whatever that looks like for them, then as a team collectively they are growing individually and together and in their relationship with God. They are doing well academically because they are students first… [we hope] we can look back on the end of this year and say we were able to meet that mission to the best of our abilities.”