A new season is set to start this week for Milligan University athletics while the Buffaloes are still rolling in the success from last year.

In fact, Tuesday marked the first day of eligible competition for Milligan and the Appalachian Athletic Conference in the 2020-21 season as well as the NAIA’s National Awards Day for the 2019-20 season, the latter honoring a handful of Milligan teams and individuals with high praise.


First up, Milligan was recognized this year by the NAIA as a winner of the Champions of Character Five-Star Institution Gold Award, again with a perfect score. This marks the third time in the last four years Milligan earned gold honors and the second year Milligan tallied a perfect score.

“I am so proud of our coaches’ and athletes’ continued commitment to ensuring that all of the tenants of the NAIA Champions of Character program are pervasive throughout our athletic department,” said Mark Fox, Milligan vice president for athletics and student development. “Coach Rich Aubrey has done a tremendous job in spreading these efforts throughout the department.”

One hundred eighty-one NAIA Institutions earned the Champions of Character Five-Star Institution Award, with 68 achieving a perfect score.

Twelve Appalachian Athletic Conference schools received recognition for the 2019-20 academic year. Nine AAC teams earned gold and three teams earned silver. The AAC also received the Champions of Character Five-Star Conference award.

Throughout the 2019-20 school year, the Buffs demonstrated what it meant to be a champion of character by their volunteer efforts around the community. The biggest volunteer event that the athletic department participated in was the Boones Creek Christian Church fourth annual community food pack where Milligan partnered with Kids Against Hunger and packed over 86,000 meals.

Several men’s teams participated in this event last year, while several women’s teams partnered with businesses such as Holston Habitat for Humanity and Washington County Johnson City Animal Center for their volunteer projects.

The Champions of Character Five-Star award is given to institutions that demonstrate a commitment to Champions of Character. Institutions within the NAIA earn points in character training, recognition and promotion, as well as conduct in competition and academic focus.

Also, points are earned based on exceptional student-athlete grade-point averages and by obtaining zero ejections during competition throughout the course of the academic year.


After the institutional award came the team awards, which landed 18 Milligan teams that impressively earned distinction as NAIA Scholar Teams for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Milligan swimming led the charge on the team front with the highest grade-point averages among women and men, respectively. The women’s swimming team led all teams with a cumulative GPA of 3.67, while the men’s swimming team led all men’s teams at 3.41.

Women’s cross country, women’s golf and women’s basketball all finished with cumulative GPAs at or above 3.5, coming in at 3.60, 3.56 and 3.50, respectively. Women’s indoor/outdoor track & field finished just behind at a 3.45 average. Men’s tennis, men’s soccer and men’s golf were the next three highest men’s teams, finishing with 3.30, 3.28 and 3.26.

For a team to be considered for the NAIA Scholar Team award, it must have a minimum 3.0 grade-point average (on a 4.0 scale) as defined by the institution. The team grade-point average includes all eligible varsity student-athletes.

Ninety-four Buffs recognized as 2019-20 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes

Last but not least, the NAIA announced over 10,000 student-athletes from across the country who achieved honors as a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete. Ninety-four members of those honorees came from Milligan, women’s soccer leading the way with 12 Buffs making the list. Milligan men’s track & field followed as a close runner-up with 10.

The Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete award recognizes individual student-athletes at the national level for achieving high academic success. Specifically, to be honored as a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete, each individual must maintain a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved junior academic status.

For the complete list of Milligan teams and individuals honors with success, see page B2.


The COVID-19 pandemic caused a delayed start to the 2020 fall season, but the Buffs are off and rolling now.

Tuesday night, Milligan volleyball opened the season with a trip to Kentucky Christian University, and both Milligan soccer teams are set to start Wednesday at Bryan.

Cross country season also is fast approaching as the teams will begin their seasons Friday with a trip to Montreat.