Collegiate Athletics at Campbellsville University -- Truly More Than a Game!

Collegiate Athletics at Campbellsville University -- Truly More Than a Game!

Aug. 31, 2015
For Immediate Release


Members of Campbellsville University's athletic department spread the word of Christ on a
mission trip in Costa Rica. (Campbellsville University Photo by Jordan Alves)

By Joan C. McKinney and Kasey Ricketts

Mention college sports in this part of the world, and the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball programs most likely spring to mind. But Campbellsville University actually fields more student-athletes – approximately 725 including varsity teams in all sports and junior varsity teams in some sports – than either of the big public schools, and athletes make up a far higher percentage of the student body than at most other colleges and universities.

UK and UofL each has 21 men's and women's athletic teams. Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and Georgetown College each offer fewer than 20 programs.

Campbellsville University is affiliated with seven national athletic associations and offers one of the most diverse college athletics programs with 27 men's and women's sports teams in 17 sports.


CU Cheerleading was named Mid-South Conference cheerleading champions for the 2014-15
season. (Campbellsville University Photo by Richard RoBards)

About 70 percent of all CU students living on campus participate in at least one sport, and about one-third of all full-time undergraduates do. Most athletes receive some financial aid from a variety of sources, but very few get a full-ride scholarship.

Campbellsville University's president Dr. Michael V. Carter says the unusual emphasis on athletics is very much by design. "Although we are small, the university probably has among the largest number of student-athletes in the region," said Carter, who is serving in his 17th year as president of Campbellsville.

"CU offers an opportunity for students to continue playing the sports they love beyond high school. The school benefits from the enrollment of these men and women and the gifts and talents they bring to the institution. Also, academic studies and personal observation document that this kind of engagement in sports at the collegiate level encourages success, both in school and in life."

Rusty Hollingsworth, CU's athletic director since 2001, has served as the catalyst to grow Campbellsville sports and has helped define the purpose of the initiative. "Our goal for all current and future students is that they have an opportunity to meet Christ, find their calling for life and leave Campbellsville University, diplomas in hand, as ambassadors for the kingdom of Christ," Hollingsworth said. "Sports provide a good vehicle for accomplishing those things."


Members of CU’s women’s wrestling team were named All-Americans during the 2015 season. (Campbellsville University Photo by Richard RoBards)

"We look at sports as 'more than a game,'" Carter said. "I don't want to sound trite, but the heart and soul of what we're trying to do with athletics is to build young men and women of character who will be Christian servant leaders and who complete their college studies in a timely and successful manner. We see many of our student-athletes engaged in Bible studies among team members and participating in mission work in the community and beyond."

An athlete is not required to be a Christian to come to the historically Baptist institution, but Hollingworth said he and his coaches try to identify young people with compatible values to those of CU.

"Sometimes we will take a chance on a kid who has made mistakes but appears to be a good individual," he said.

During Carter's and Hollingsworth's tenures, several facilities, including the Hawkins Athletic Center, Gosser Gymnasium, Kelly Hall Tennis Complex, Indoor Practice Facility and Montgomery-Hayden Soccer Field, have been added to the landscape of the 95-acre university. Campbellsville's Citizens Bank & Trust responded to the need to add turf and lighting to the football and baseball fields and in 2010 contributed $500,000 to what is now the Citizens Bank & Trust Field at Finley Stadium.

The first nighttime football game was played there in 2010, and a year later Campbellsville University's football team won its first postseason football championship in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Victory Bowl.

Tiger football coach Ron Finley talks game
plan with Fighting Tiger football players on
the sideline. Finley was the university's first
football coach after football was reinstated
in 1987. He died Oct. 5, 2009.

Others instrumental in advancing athletics throughout Campbellsville University's history were Dr. W.R. Davenport, president from 1969 until 1988, who reinstated football in 1987 after 50 years; former president Dr. Ken Winters, who served from 1988 until mid-1999; and former athletic directors Don Bishop, Dave Fryrear and Jim Deaton.

Most recently, a new wrestling facility has been under construction with an expected September 2015 completion date. Other facilities on the horizon are the institution's first on-campus track and softball fields, a lacrosse field and a new wellness center.

The 2014-15 season was extremely successful for CU teams and may provide a glimpse of the future. The institution won 10 regular-season Mid-South Conference (MSC) championships and produced three individual national champions: Davion Caston, men's wrestling, and Kayla Miracle and Tiaira Scott in women's wrestling. The men's tennis team won the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) national championship, and the women's basketball team was National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) runner-up. Altogether, Campbellsville University athletics appeared in 25 national tournaments.

Along with these accomplishments, student-athletes also excelled in the community and around the world, as seen by the university's record-breaking eight Mid-South Conference Champions of Characters award winners.

And CU's athletes performed well in the classroom in 2014-15 with 119 student-athletes named to MSC Academic Teams (at least 3.25 grade point averages), 96 named NAIA scholar-athletes (at least 3.5 GPAs) and 18 of the teams qualified for the NAIA Scholar Team Award (over 3.0 GPA cumulative).

A common phrase used by coaches holds that "when the team loses, the coach gets the blame, but when the team wins the players get the glory." While the student-athletes rightfully held the spotlight in 2014-15, many coaches were also recognized for their work and dedication.

Six Tiger coaches were honored as MSC Coach of the Year – Perry Thomas, football; Casey Smith, women's swimming; Ginger Colvin, women's basketball; Keith Adkins, men's basketball; Vanessa Adkins, cheerleading, and Shannon Wathen, softball. Keith Adkins was also named the overall NAIA Coach of the Year.

Rusty Hollingsworth, Campbellsville University’s director of athletics, poses with a local
child during the athletic department’s mission trip to Costa Rica. (Campbellsville University
Photo by Jordan Alves)

Hollingsworth, who was voted MSC Athletics Director of the Year in June (his third in his 14 years at Campbellsville), has overseen the addition or reinstatement of 12 athletic programs during his time as director of athletics.

The newest additions in recent years have been the most up-and-coming sports – women's wrestling and bass fishing and coed-archery. Men's volleyball, cycling and lacrosse are being considered for the not-too-distant future.

"We chose to add programs that have an Olympic connection as well as those that best serve our geographic area, such as bass fishing and archery," Hollingsworth said.

The benefits to the university of the athletic program may be hard to measure, but they are real, Carter said. "Alumni and friends of Campbellsville University are very supportive of our athletic programs for multiple reasons – a love of sports, pride in their alma mater and a desire to see it succeed and garner national attention, and the realization that students who are fully engaged in positive activities such as athletics are more likely to graduate and succeed. They also approve of the emphasis our coaches place on Christian servant leadership and character development."

Carter said, "Sports build pride among the students and alumni. And, especially when we are successful, sports increase our visibility in Kentucky and among people around the country who are interested in Christian universities. These things are hard to quantify, but we know they're there."

But Carter stresses that the primary focus of the sports programs is to contribute to the growth of the athletes as servant leaders. "We don't just field teams to have them," Carter said. "We try hard to win, which requires the student-athletes to gain maturity, learn teamwork and to give of themselves in pursuit of something greater. So, by far, the number one reason we invest in sports is for the good of the students who participate."

Through the NAIA's Champions of Character program and the National Christian College Athletic Association, student-athletes at CU have fed the hungry and distributed blankets in Florida, spread the gospel and run sports camps in Costa Rica, written letters of love, encouragement and hope to the United States Armed Forces and helped clean up Green River Lake in Campbellsville. Often CU athletic teams perform Christian servant projects in the communities in which they play tournaments.

Assistant director of athletics Jim Hardy partners annually with the coaches and members of the Fighting Tiger football team to use their spring break to play softball and minister to prisoners in Florida. Hardy and Hollingsworth coordinated a mission trip to Costa Rica in 2014 involving 31 coaches, staff and athletics supporters. The participants ran athletic camps while spreading the word of Jesus Christ.

Typical of what the athletes like to do, said Hollingsworth, was the women's soccer team and head coach Thom Jones taking time during the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Championships in Florida to provide blankets and food for the homeless there. And the athletic department is making a difference worldwide by partnering with Sports Reach and Audience 1 Sports for the ShoePer Bowl to collect shoes to take to Belize, Brazil and Haiti.

The NCCAA is an association of Christ-centered collegiate institutions whose mission is to use athletic competition as an integral component of education, evangelism and encouragement.

Sebastian Marot, right, presents Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University,
with a men's tennis national championship T-shirt during his commencement. (Campbellsville
University Photo by Drew Tucker)

Campbellsville University's mantra of "fellowship, scholarship and leadership" dovetails nicely with the NCCAA's Game Plan 4-Life "providing training to instill the values that build character so students, coaches and parents know, do and value the right thing on and off the field."

"Campbellsville taught me firsthand about integrity," said A'Darius Pegues, a 2014 graduate of Campbellsville University. "In life you will walk many paths and, no matter what you accomplish or what goals you reach, the way you carry yourself and handle situations will be remembered over all. Campbellsville University has taught me no matter if it's hitting the winning basket in a game or making the dean's list, your character will always be your shining moment."

Today Pegues is a starting small forward for the Mexican basketball team Manzaneros De Cuauhtémoc.

"What's most important to us," said Hollingworth," is that through sports, we are teaching our student-athletes what it means to have character. That's what makes it 'More Than a Game.'"

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,500 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master's degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is

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