By Valerie McCutchan

It was 10 years ago on June 27, 2006 that 13 NIRSA members gathered in the NIRSA Headquarters conference room for the summit that would result in the creation of the NIRSA Championship Series’ guiding principles. Those principles still serve as the framework of the Series.

Guiding Principles (adopted: 2006)

  • Support the mission and vision of NIRSA
  • Lead and govern through participatory and transparent practices
  • Establish and promote student and professional development
  • Create a NIRSA Championship Series brand identity of excellence
  • Comprehensively manage all fiscal responsibilities
  • Foster a culture of assessment and research in student engagement

There are plenty of rumors about how the Series got started, but this is how I (with lots of help from friends) remember the story.

In 2006, the NIRSA Services Corporation was working with a marketing agency that suggested NIRSA sport tournaments would be more marketable to potential sponsors if they were all under the same umbrella. At that time, the tournaments were being managed and conducted under two committees. The Extramural Committee included basketball and flag football while the Sport Club Championships Committee oversaw volleyball, soccer, and tennis. Each group had their own set of eligibility standards.

Around this time, the 2006 National Intramural Basketball Championships—now known as the NIRSA National Basketball Championships—were happening at Georgia Tech where members of the Extramural Committee were on staff. At the championships, those members discussed having a summer meeting where they would put together a manual to help bring uniformity and consistency to regional tournaments. The NSC Board of Directors had already been pondering getting sports under one umbrella, and a group of engaged Extramural Committee members was now ready to join the conversation. The Sport Club Championships Committee was the last group that needed to get involved.

At the 2006 NIRSA Annual Conference, the NSC Board invited Chad Ellsworth, Director at Arizona State University and then-Chair of the Extramural Committee, and Randall Ford, Associate Director at The University of Texas at Austin and then-Chair of the Sport Club Championships Committee, to a meeting. Chad and Randall were then asked if they would be willing to serve and help create the new National Campus Championship Series Committee. This committee would eventually be renamed the NIRSA Championship Series Committee. Leaving that meeting, Chad and Randall knew they had a daunting task ahead of them.

Dan Hazlett, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation at Georgia Institute of Technology, was appointed by the NSC Board to be the first Chair of the newly-created National Campus Championship Series Committee. Plans were then set in motion for the summit in Corvallis where Dan, Chad, Randall, NSC Board representation, and a few members from both the Extramural and Sport Club Championships Committees would be in attendance. Summit attendees would end up building the foundation for the soon-to-be NIRSA Championship Series.

“I was impressed overall by the group’s willingness to work together on the common goal of the formation of a new committee.”

“During the summit, there were plenty of times where the Sport Club and Extramural leaders would agree on a topic and other times when they would agree to disagree,” says Randall. “I was impressed overall by the group’s willingness to work together on the common goal of the formation of a new committee.” Kathleen Hatch, retired from Washington State University and a NSC Board member in 2006, looks back on the Summit “as a crystallizing moment. Anytime anything is ‘built’ I like to think of it in terms of a capital project. So this Summit was the beginning of a renovation and rebuild guided by unwavering commitments and principles.”

Chad remembers how fun it was “to be in a room with so many passionate, committed, and accomplished professionals discussing principles for what were then—and are now—core tenets of our profession. We knew then the value that our tournaments provided to our association. We knew that they provided leadership opportunities, networking opportunities, and growth opportunities for our institutions and members.”

Dan Hazlett led the group and observed a wide range of experiences and abilities among the attendees. Some were proficient in working with details and some were valuable strategic thinkers. It was the perfect collection of talent coupled with an overall strong commitment to the idea of the NIRSA Championship Series. I’m not sure anyone understood at that time just what the Series could be, but we all trusted each other and the process.

“We knew then the value that our tournaments provided…We knew that they provided leadership opportunities, networking opportunities, and growth opportunities for our institutions and members.”

“I am forever grateful for that opportunity in Corvallis and the mentorship and knowledge at those first meetings as well as for the years that have followed,” says Stephanie McAlpine, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation at The University of Texas at Arlington. “The collaboration between the passionate NIRSA members from both the Extramural and Sport Club committees demonstrated how two schools of thought could rally behind a united effort to create something truly special for our association, its members, and our students.”

It has been a roller coaster ride the past decade, but throughout the years the NIRSA Championship Series Committee has stood by the original guiding principles. By doing so, it has created a NIRSA Championship Series brand that members can be proud of. I know that I’m looking forward to seeing what the next ten years bring.

Going forward I believe the Series must continue to be open and accessible to all who want to participate in the process. I believe we must be innovative in how we create those opportunities, and we must be committed to the ideal of maximum involvement. We need to be aware of the differing dynamics within our association and the regional differences that challenge a unified approach.  We need to continue telling our story and celebrating our successes, and we must be prepared for new opportunities.

Kudos to the original crew who brought passion, insight, and expertise to the table as well as a strong commitment to the idea of a NIRSA Championship Series. The Series would never have gotten off the ground without a willingness to trust one another and to intertwine the Extramural and Sport Club Committees with new ideas for the future. And it certainly wouldn’t have been able to achieve ten years of successful tournament experiences for participants and officials without the dedication of hundreds of volunteer staff members. So, on behalf of NIRSA Headquarters, thanks to everyone who has played a part in developing, refining, and carrying forward a hallmark feature of our association!

For more information, about the NIRSA Championship Series and how you can get help support its future, contact a member of the 2016-2017 NIRSA Championship Series Committee.

2006 Summit attendees

  • Cat Cramp, University of Florida
  • David Dunham, University of California-Merced
  • Jeff Elbracht, Washington State University
  • Chad Ellsworth, Arizona State University, Chair Extramural Committee
  • Randall Ford, The University of Texas at Austin, Chair Sport Club Championships
  • Lisa Hanson Lemey, Moraine Valley Community College
  • Kathleen Hatch, retired, Washington State University
  • Dan Hazlett, Georgia Tech, Chair NCCS
  • Ken Hill, Advisor and Personal Trainer, AdvoCare
  • Kurt Klier, University of Maryland
  • Stephanie McAlpine, The University of Texas – Arlington
  • Eric Nickel, James Madison University, NSC Board
  • Jacob Tingle, Trinity University (invited unable to attend)
  • Mirum Washington White, Commissionaire for Tuscan Youth Football & Spirit Federation
  • Mary Callender, NIRSA
  • Valerie McCutchan, NIRSA