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Welcome to Bethel athletics

Bethel athletics challenges athletes to be more than just competitive, but to practice excellence in every aspect of life.

By Ella Roberts | Sports Editor

In less than three decades, Bethel University’s programs have more than doubled to over 100 degree options, and enrollment has grown to nearly 4,200 students. Bethel’s athletics have grown alongside the university.

Bethel offers nine men’s and women’s sports, as well as over nine club and intramural sports that compete with other colleges and universities in the Twin Cities area.  

With over 82 staff members – including five athletic trainers, two strength coaches, a number of student managers and employees and seven athletic facilities – the department is made up of many moving parts, all working together towards “competitive excellence” and “a lifetime of service to Jesus Christ and His kingdom,” according to the department’s mission statement.

Athletic Director Greg Peterson says he has seen the way Bethel’s coaches strive to speak life into their athletes. This is something he experienced firsthand as a student athlete at Bethel, when he played for head football coach Steve Johnson as a four-year starter for the offensive team from 1988–91.

“My experience with Bethel athletics transformed my faith from one that was my parents to one that became my own,” Peterson said. 

Freshman Will Karkoc became just the second player in program history and first since 2009 to be named MIAC Men’s Golf Freshman of the Year.  | Submitted photo

Peterson believes Bethel is set apart from other schools. The culture that is centered in Jesus, specifically, as well as the strive for excellence in all aspects of life, beyond competition.

“Bethel’s niche of a Christ-centered university is really strong. When demographics show that the number of incoming college students or high school graduates is going down, Bethel is countercultural to that,” Peterson said. 

As a member of the NCAA at the Division III level, Bethel, like all Division III institutions, does not offer athletic scholarships. However, approximately 99% of all Bethel students receive some type of financial aid. Instead of athletic scholarships, Bethel advertises a full college experience that entails a solid mix of athletics, academics, community and social life. For student athletes this might mean juggling 6 a.m. workouts, practices until midnight, excelling in the classroom and committing to be a part of the Bethel community. 

The Royals came away from the NCAA National Championships with 14 All-Americans and an 8th place finish in the men’s team competition with 24 team points. That is the highest team finish, most points, and most All-Americans at a single championship in program history. Bethel also had 3 runner-up finishes for the weekend. | Submitted photo

Despite this, Peterson is excited to see how student athletes lean into the challenge. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced that 115 Bethel University student athletes from winter and spring squads earned Academic All-MIAC honors for their hard work in the classroom. Combine that with 86 student athletes from the fall, and Bethel had 201 student athletes receiving Academic All-MIAC accolades, 25 Academic All-American awards and one NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship for the 2021-22 academic year. 

On top of this, Bethel had its highest finish ever in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s and women’s All-Sports competitions for the 2021-22 season. The Bethel women’s program registered a historic second-place finish. Three conference champions aided in the total with volleyball earning the co-regular season champions, indoor track and field winning the program’s first title and softball winning its second regular season crown. Men’s programs finished fifth with baseball’s regular season championship, football’s second place finish in the fall and the third-place finish for track and field during the outdoor conference meet. 

 The Bethel University softball team had a historic 37-7 season with program single-season records in wins, conference wins, runs, stolen bases and ERA as well as their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. Simacek’s 1.04 ERA and 349 strikeouts are single-season records for BU. | Submitted photo

Bethel coaches have also been recognized for their excellence with multiple different awards.

With such a successful past year, Peterson is confident that Bethel can become one of the top Division III schools in the country. 

Moving forward, the athletic department as a whole is striving to become partners with all students on campus. Peterson believes it’s crucial for students to be intentional about getting involved on campus, and that does not necessarily mean being on a team. There are many opportunities on campus to get involved with athletics such as work studies or on-campus jobs in the sports information department. Students can also help with stats, social media, photography, broadcasting  and more. 

During welcome week, Petterson will be holding a breakout session for incoming students and their families on what athletics can look like, even if that doesn’t mean being on a team. 

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