When Millikin University opened its doors in 1903, the athletic programs were right on its heels with football, men’s basketball and baseball all competing in the University’s first full academic year (1903-04). Since its start, Big Blue athletics has achieved considerable success both as a member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) and at the national level as a member of the NCAA Division III. Prior to joining the NCAA Millikin was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
The Millikin Athletic programs got an early start, and so did the nickname “Big Blue.” According to historical records, the “Big Blue” is generally attributed to Carl Head, a professor of mechanical engineering who used the name on posters during the 1916 football season.
Millikin joined the College Conference of Illinois (CCI) on April 26, 1946 as one of its nine charter members (Augustana, Carthage, Elmhurst, Illinois College, Illinois Wesleyan, Lake Forest, Millikin, North Central and Wheaton). The league was renamed the CCIW in 1967 to recognize Carthage, which had moved its campus from Illinois to Wisconsin as well as Carroll’s entrance in 1955. Regarded as “The Best Small College Conference In The Nation,” Millikin is one of four charter members with uninterrupted membership. The NCAA added championships for women’s sports in 1981 while women’s team titles were added to the CCIW slate during the 1985-86 season.
A testament to its label as the “Best Small College Conference,” CCIW schools have accounted for 32 national championships at the NCAA Division III level since the organization divided into three divisions in 1973.
Big Blue athletes also garner significant respect in the classroom with 69 athletes having earned the prestigious Academic All-America honor during their careers. With 69 Academic All-Americans in its history, Millikin was tied No. 26 nationally with Rice University and Truman State prior to the 2006-07 seasons. While several other organizations honor athletes’ academic success, the most nationally recognized are the Academic All-America awards administered by the College Sports Information Directors of American (CoSIDA).