After Northwestern College set a school record for victories with a 30-7 record in 2008, coach Beth Wilmeth sought to establish a new standard for success. She preached integrity and she wanted her players to display that principle on the court. After seeing one of the Eagles’ opponents make honor calls, the team decided to implement its own system in which it surrenders a point it doesn’t deserve. If a student-athlete touches a shot that goes out of bounds and the officials miss the touch, the Eagles self-report it. Initially, officials were taken aback at tournaments where Northwestern competed. The NCAA was even contacted to determine if Northwestern’s actions were fair. Representatives from the NCAA ruled that honor calls are not only fair, but also encouraged. Although they have not cost the Eagles a match, the honor calls did result in the loss of 30 points during the 2009 season. But the focus on honesty and integrity had an effect on Northwestern’s opponents. Other teams followed the Eagles’ lead and instituted their own versions of the honor call system. Middle blocker Elissa Sandstrom told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “It still stinks giving up a point, but it feels right. Other teams have said, ‘Thank you for being honest.’ And if you want to be a person of integrity, you have to have it in all areas.”
Northwestern College is the recipient of the NCAA’s Sportsmanship Award.