The Northwest Conference exists to promote, organize, and supervise intercollegiate athletics competition among member institutions in a way that encourages competition to be equitable, fair, amicable, enjoyable, and educational.
In accordance with the NCAA Principle of Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct, it is the responsibility of each member institution to:
"promote character development of participants, to enhance the integrity of higher education and to promote civility in society, student-athletes, coaches, and all others associated with these athletics programs and events should adhere to such fundamental values as respect, fairness, civility, honesty, and responsibility. These values should be manifest not only in athletics participation but also in the broad spectrum of activities affecting the athletics program. It is the responsibility of each institution to:
(a) Establish policies for sportsmanship and ethical conduct in intercollegiate athletics consistent with the educational mission and goals of the institution; and
(b) Educate, on a continuing basis, all constituencies about the above policies."
In the last 22 years, the Northwest Conference has established itself as one of the most competitive NCAA Division III conferences in the U.S. Comprised of nine private colleges and universities in Washington and Oregon, the NWC is competitive on a national level in a wide array of sports and recognized for its emphasis on academic excellence.
The NWC was formed in 1926, making it one of the oldest athletics conferences in the western United States. For 60 years, the Northwest Conference sponsored sports exclusively for men, but in 1984 it joined with the Women’s Conference of Independent Colleges to become the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges, shortening the name to its current moniker in 1996 when it joined the NCAA.
The charter members included Willamette University, Whitman College, Pacific University, the College of Puget Sound (now the University of Puget Sound), Linfield College, and the College of Idaho. In 1931, Albany College joined, left in 1938, and rejoined in 1949 using its present name of Lewis & Clark College. Pacific Lutheran University was added in 1965, and Whitworth College in 1970. In 1978, the College of Idaho dropped out of the conference. Whitworth also left in 1984, but then returned in 1988. In 1996, George Fox joined when the conference moved to the NCAA. Seattle University was also a member for one year before it switched to NCAA Division II. From 2006-2010 Menlo College was also a part of the conference as an associate member in football.
The move to NCAA Division III in 1996 was embraced as one that would foster equity, sportsmanship and genuine concern for the student-athlete in all endeavors of competition. Athletics competition at the NCAA Division III level is based on the development of student-athletes through a “comprehensive educational experience” (NCAA Division III Identity Initiative).
The NWC’s current membership includes Lewis & Clark College, Linfield College, George Fox University, Pacific University, and Willamette University from Oregon, and Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Puget Sound, Whitman College, and Whitworth University from Washington.
The Northwest Conference has won nine NCAA Division III National Championships; Pacific Lutheran football in 1999, Linfield football and George Fox baseball in 2004, Linfield softball in 2007, George Fox women’s basketball in 2009, Linfield softball in 2011, Pacific Lutheran softball in 2012, Linfield baseball in 2013 and George Fox women's track & field in 2018.
Each year, the NWC recognizes the school that excels across all fields of competition by awarding the McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports Trophy, based upon a points system. The trophy is named in honor of Jane McIlroy from Linfield (1950-82) and John Lewis of Willamette (1947-72).
Thanks to Kelly Bird from Linfield for compiling the initial versions of the NWC history.