During the 2020-21 academic year, the Midwest Conference (MWC) celebrates 100 years of intercollegiate competition as a conference. Located in Grinnell, Iowa, the MWC is made up of ten member institutions across the midwestern states of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Member institutions of the now incorporated league (Nov. 2012) are Beloit, Cornell, Grinnell, Illinois College, Knox, Lake Forest, Lawrence, Monmouth, Ripon and St. Norbert. Macalester is an affiliate member in the sport of football and the University of Chicago is an affiliate in baseball and football.

The modern-era Midwest Conference was created in the spring of 1994 with the merger of the Midwest Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC), which had been sponsoring men’s championships since 1921, and the Midwest Athletic Conference for Women (MACW), which was formed to conduct women’s championship competition in 1977. The stated intent of the union was to preserve the tradition of both leagues while enhancing administration efficiency and fostering equity between men and women’s sports.

Organization of the MCAC was conceived at a meeting on the campus of Coe College, May 12, 1921. Charter members were Beloit, Carleton, Coe, Cornell, Knox and Lawrence. Hamline and Millikin joined the league in December 1921 but later withdrew. Ripon joined the Conference in 1923, Monmouth in 1924, Grinnell in 1940 and Lake Forest in 1974. Illinois College and St. Norbert joined in 1982 and Carroll followed in 1992. Carleton withdrew following the 1982-83 academic year. St. Olaf also competed in the conference from 1952-74, as did the University of Chicago from 1976-87. Coe and Cornell withdrew following the 1996-97 academic year, and in 2012 Cornell returned to the league. Carroll departed in July of 2016.

Track and field was the only sport contested in the MCAC’s inaugural year while football and basketball were added in 1922. Lawrence, Coe and Millikin topped the initial football standings in 1922, and Beloit won the first basketball championship in 1922-23. Cross country was added in 1929, tennis in 1931, golf in 1934, swimming in 1936, wrestling in 1938, baseball in 1953, soccer in 1971 and indoor track (which previously had an informal champion) in 1977.

The purpose of the Conference since its formation has been to “maintain athletic activities on a plane in keeping with the dignity and high purpose of liberal education.” Competitive sports are regarded as a valuable part of the educational experience and are maintained for the benefit of students.

The MACW formed in 1977 after the “status of women’s athletics” on MCAC campuses was assessed and reported to be growing. The Conference adopted a governance structure similar to that of its male counterpart, empowering faculty with ultimate control and governance on major decisions. Geneva Meers, Cornell Professor of English, assumed the role of commissioner in 1978 and remained in that position until replaced by Ruth Peterson. Charter members of the MACW were Coe, Cornell, Grinnell, Knox and Monmouth. Championships in basketball, cross country, outdoor track & field, softball, swimming and volleyball were offered in the first year. Beloit was accepted to the league in 1981, Illinois College and the University of Chicago in 1982 and Lake Forest, Lawrence, Ripon and St. Norbert in 1983. Indoor track became a championship sport in 1984 and soccer was added in 1986.

After the establishment of the modern-era Midwest Conference in 1994, wrestling was dropped and women’s golf was added (1996-1997), putting the total number of championship sports for the league at 20. The MWC now sponsors only 18 championship sports since men's and women's golf era ended at the conclusion of the 2018-19 academic year.

As part of our educational philosophy, members and affiliates of the Midwest Conference maintain that academic and athletic achievement are not mutually exclusive, purposefully supporting student-athletes in the pursuit of excellence in all that they do. We accomplish this goal, collectively and individually, by:

  • Valuing and supporting student-athlete well being,
  • Fostering and modeling sportsmanship,
  • Respecting and advancing diversity, and
  • Celebrating competitive success.

The centennial celebration will feature spotlights honoring the rich athletic history of our member institutions, as well as the unveiling of the MWC Top 100 list celebrating the achievements of former student-athletes from member institutions (past and present).