Athletics at Hillsdale College

Michael Kovalchik
Athletic Director

Michael KovalchikMichael J. Kovalchik was a two-sport standout in college and a minor league baseball player in the Atlanta Braves system. He has also coached football, wrestling, and baseball. Since 1996, he has served as athletic director at Hillsdale College. Previously, he held the same post at Grand Valley State University for seven years. He has also directed athletics at Ohio Northern University and Jamestown College in North Dakota. He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University and is a former U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force officer and Vietnam veteran.

Many readers have expressed an interest in our athletics program at Hillsdale College. Here are some brief comments from Athletic Director Michael J. Kovalchik. For more information, please contact the Department of Athletics at 517/439-1524 or 517/437-7364.

Sports and education are inextricably linked in American society. Ideally, they complement one another. Intercollegiate athletics strive to instill specific moral qualities that are meant to be lifelong attributes: sportsmanship, leadership, optimism, self-discipline, loyalty, dedication, commitment, effort, sacrifice, and honor.

For over a century and a half, athletics and academics have prospered together at Hillsdale College. Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students have all come to appreciate the fact that intercollegiate athletics play a vital part in the overall mission of the College, which, since 1844, has been to provide such instruction “as will best develop the minds and improve the hearts of its pupils.”

Our athletics program is consciously designed to develop the student-athlete’s sense of teamwork, sportsmanship, competitiveness, school pride, and sound character. This last quality is especially important in an era when some athletic programs have compromised their integrity and distorted their mission.

I believe that a value system in collegiate athletics that promotes a “win-at-all-costs” philosophy has no place in higher education. Winning is important. But it is not as important as striving to win. And victory as an end does not justify the means.

At Hillsdale, a student-athlete is someone who is committed to mental and physical excellence. Unquestionably, the student-athlete represents the very essence of this small, courageous institution’s intense commitment to independence and fortitude. The “David” among “Goliaths,” Hillsdale kneels to none in its quest to educate.

At a time in the history of America’s “athletic society,” when the term “student-athlete” has fallen into disrepute, it is refreshing to be at a school where so many fine young men and women are getting a wholesome and well-rounded education in the classroom and on the playing field. The opportunity to represent Hillsdale College through athletic competition remains a privilege. The student- athlete must “play the game”—whether the game is algebra, history, football, or track—with 100 percent effort and determination.

Nearly one-third of the students enrolled at Hillsdale participate in varsity athletics. This in itself is a reflection of the importance and value of athletics on our campus. We realize that sport is a universal language. It transcends all cultures, and it possesses one common denominator—a passion for excellence. Hillsdale College is truly one of the last bastions where the Greek ideal of mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body, remains strong.