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2019 NCAA CHOICES grant winners announced

11 schools to receive funding for proposals to reduce alcohol abuse

Eleven schools recently were awarded 2019 NCAA CHOICES grants. The NCAA CHOICES program is an annual grant program that provides funding for NCAA member schools and conferences to integrate athletics into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse. The grants were awarded for the following proposals:

Berry College (Division III, Southern Athletic Association)

Berry has a tradition and reputation as a caring community with a proactive approach to preventing alcohol abuse. Developments in the past decade call for a new level of action to address alcohol issues. Due to prevention education, absence of Greek life and strong enforcement of alcohol/drug use conduct standards, Berry beats national averages on substance abuse and related consequences and attitudes. However, since 2014, biannual Core Alcohol and Drug Survey results reveal significant erosion of those advantages. These core results indicate 12.5% average increases in use and abuse of substances and a shift to a “new normal” of peer expectations that may facilitate a further increase. At this rate, for example, binge drinking could increase to 27-38% in 2020-24.

The proposed program represents Berry’s commitment to combining existing prevention methods with the growing cultural influence of the athletics program to reverse these trends. The athletics department intends to promote a culture of care for the entire campus through leadership development infused with alcohol abuse resistant normative and informative messages. A culture of care emphasizes care of self and others to reach common goals and includes supporting safe choices with alcohol. Berry will bolster a campus culture of care that promotes safe choices with alcohol through leadership training infused with alcohol education for student athletic leaders and nonathletic leaders and alcohol abuse prevention education for athletics teams and student groups.

Berry is an independent, coeducational, comprehensive liberal arts college of approximately 2,100 undergraduate students, with 445 athletes competing on 10 men’s and 11 women’s NCAA athletics teams. Berry’s 27,000-acre campus is the world’s largest. Visit

Florida Gulf Coast University (Division I; ASUN Conference)

The purpose of Florida Gulf Coast’s Eagle Eye program is to integrate athletics into campuswide efforts to prevent and reduce alcohol abuse through student-athlete participation in existing campuswide alcohol education initiatives, development of new alcohol education programming, creation of an alcohol education public service announcement video, and initiation of a social media campaign pertaining to alcohol abuse and prevention. The activities and opportunities proposed are anticipated to reach many and to take advantage of the powerful attributes that are similar to the attributes of the bald eagle (keen eyesight, powerful talons and large nests). For example, a common theme throughout all educational programming will focus on becoming an effective and willing “spotter” by learning how to identify those in need through possessing an Eagle Eye and being prepared to offer help to those in need. Florida Gulf Coast intends to “protect the nest” and to share educational programming with ASUN Conference institutions, NCAA member institutions and the communities the school serves.  

Located in Southwest Florida, Florida Gulf Coast offers 58 undergraduate, 25 master’s, and six doctoral degree programs, along with 12 certificate programs. Current student enrollment is 15,080 students with 93% of those students enrolled in undergraduate programs. Florida Gulf Coast is a member of the ASUN Conference with 15 athletics teams (six men’s and nine women’s teams). Of the more than 15,080 students enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast, 270 are student-athletes and hail from 31 states and 31 countries.

Gannon University (Division II; Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference)

Gannon University is a private Catholic diocesan university located in the urban heart of Erie, Pennsylvania. Gannon’s 23 athletic teams compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in NCAA Division II, the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association, National Cheer Association and Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association. There are 4, 343 students enrolled at the university, with a total of 3,098 undergraduate students.   Student- athletes currently make up 20% of the student body, with 625 students participating in athletic programs.

Gannon University’s Promise to Step Up! and Make Healthy Choices program seeks to reduce underage drinking, decrease misperceptions about alcohol usage and increase healthy lifestyle choices.   Through this program, Gannon will: (1) Create a social norms campaign that will promote positive norms and change misperceptions regarding alcohol usage. (2) Create a peer education program to deliver educational and awareness programs to the campus community. (3) Increase Late Knight program options to provide safe and healthy social choices for students.

Mercyhurst University (Division II; Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference)

Throughout its mission statement, Mercyhurst highlights six core values: socially merciful, globally responsible, compassionately hospitable, intellectually creative, reflectively aware and ambassadors of service. Programs and initiatives put forth by the university embody these core values to provide a holistic learning experience for students, faculty and staff. The fifth core value, “reflectively aware,” states that the school’s “Christian environment encourages self-reflection and contemplation of human behavior, promotes balance of mind, body and spirit, and ultimately offers the opportunity to develop a moral compass for a life of integrity.” The Mercyhurst United in Making Wise Choices Program has at its core goal that students will make responsible choices about alcohol. This means their choices should follow Pennsylvania law; be respectful of their own physical, emotional and spiritual health; and support the rights and safety of others. Within this framework, Mercyhurst United has the following primary goals:

  • Educate the campus community, including parents of incoming students, on normative behavior and the impact of alcohol use through the leadership of student-athletes.
  • Provide student leaders with the opportunity to educate younger athletes on making wise decisions. This includes investing in the local community and visiting local high schools to present on wise decision-making.
  • Develop peer mentorship programs involving student-athletes, resident assistants and student government.

Assessment data collected during the project will continue to inform evidence-based practice promoting healthy choices from students. Annual implementation of the CORE Institute surveys will provide current information on student normative behaviors and attitude and quantify cultural shifts at Mercyhurst. Through a collaborative effort between the school’s department of athletics, campus involvement center, residence life and student conduct office, academic support office, and health and counseling center, Mercyhurst’s goal is to expand and revamp its Mercyhurst Mentors program to include other campus leaders (student government, Student- Athlete Advisory Committee and resident assistants). This will allow for a more comprehensive approach to promoting wise choices among students, as well as encourage more student-to-student accountability regarding alcohol use. The involvement of community business partners also will expand the knowledge base and provide additional areas for student education and collaboration.

Mercyhurst is a fully accredited, four-year private coeducational Catholic university founded in Erie, Pennsylvania, by the Sisters of Mercy in 1926. Its main campus is in southeast Erie about 130 miles north of Pittsburgh. Mercyhurst is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and has a total enrollment of 3,357 students across all campuses. The Erie campus offers 86 undergraduate majors and 10 graduate majors.

New York Institute of Technology (Division II; East Coast Conference)

The BEAR CHOICES project aims to develop an alcohol prevention program led by student-athletes and other students to increase student awareness and to educate and empower New York Institute of Technology students, student-athletes, faculty, athletics and academic administrators, and the local community to decrease high-risk alcohol-related behavior.

The university has addressed alcohol prevention, education and intervention through an array of local, national and global evidence-based initiatives. New York Institute of Technology recognizes the need to gain the perceptions, input and buy-in of its students and therefore plans to build upon these resources through the BEAR CHOICES project, which will be a student-led initiative involving all stakeholders.

The BEAR CHOICES project will be implemented with the support of academic and athletics administrators, faculty, coaches, health professionals, physicians and students who will collaborate with campus and the local community to accomplish three training, needs assessment and intervention goals and two evaluation and communication goals:

  • Goal 1: The student/student-athlete project team will engage in trainings, develop a student-centered needs assessment and disseminate the findings to all stakeholders including students, coaches, faculty, administrators and the community.
  • Goal 2: The student/student-athlete project team will expand the university’s current campus and community culture of alcohol prevention awareness by addressing the findings identified from the student-led needs assessment process.
  • Goal 3: The student/student-athlete project team will develop and implement innovative student-centered interventions addressing the sociocultural norms of the student/student-athlete community.
  • Goals 4-5: These goals will include the monitoring, communication and sustainability process, which will be examined throughout the project using process and outcome evaluation measures, stakeholder feedback and a transition process to institutionalize the project with the support of university leadership, internal grant opportunities and through seeking external community support and funding.

New York Institute of Technology is committed to educating the next generation of leaders. The university offers more than 90 career-focused degrees in health professions, architecture and design, interdisciplinary studies and education, engineering and computing sciences, management, arts and sciences, osteopathic medicine, and vocational studies. The university’s students represent 50 states and 100 countries at campuses around the world. The undergraduate student population at the New York campuses consists of approximately 3,000 students, of which 240 are student-athletes. The athletics department includes 13 Division II varsity programs.

University of California, Davis (Division I; Big West Conference)

Aggies Preventing Alcohol Repercussions Through New Efforts and Relationships is a new collaborative effort between UC Davis athletics and the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services Health Education and Promotion Department. Aggies PARTNER serves as a means to bring unique strengths and resources together to move the departments’ complementary missions forward. The purpose of intercollegiate athletics at UC Davis is to provide a student-centered top tier athletics program dedicated to excellence. Intercollegiate athletics empowers student-athletes to compete at the highest level while preparing them to become the next generation of leaders. The mission of SHCS is to enhance the physical and mental health of students in order to help them achieve academic success, personal development and lifelong wellness. Health Education and Promotion strives to accomplish this by fostering health-promoting environments, institutional practices and a campus culture that enables student success and wellness.

Aggies PARTNER will work synergistically to embody the UC Davis, intercollegiate athletics and SHCS missions in order to accomplish three goals:

  1. Conduct a needs assessment to identify campus priorities with a special emphasis on athletes around alcohol use and to inform Aggies PARTNER efforts.
  2. Develop, implement and evaluate a peer Athlete Guidance and Support AGS Ambassador Program to connect UC Davis athletes to alcohol and wellness resources and guide them toward healthy coping strategies to deal with the unique pressures of being student-athletes.
  3. Empower student-athletes as role models to help develop and launch a campuswide campaign focused on alcohol misuse prevention and social norming.

Each component of Aggies PARTNER will be student driven. This approach will serve to fulfill the overall Aggies PARTNER purpose: to leverage new partnerships, sustain peer-driven campuswide efforts and establish peer support systems for student-athletes. These efforts will create an environment where the safest choice is the easiest choice for students.

UC Davis, home of the Aggies, is a public research institution serving 37,398 students. UC Davis strives to provide opportunities for personal development and academic enrichment through work-learn experiences and extracurricular student life. UC Davis offers 105 majors within a wide array of specialized academic fields. The Division I intercollegiate athletics program comprises 23 varsity teams and 623 student-athletes.

University of Central Florida (Division I; American Athletic Conference)

The University of Central Florida’s Act Because You Care project is based on the premise that micro-influencers (those with a smaller follower count) who are easily recognized and relevant to the student population are appropriate for the scope of this initiative. The project’s strategy is based on identifying and engaging student influencers to prioritize health and well-being and act accordingly. Often, bystanders do not intervene because they are unsure how to determine if an emergency exists. When faced with a situation that might warrant immediate attention, whether classified as an emergency or not, bystanders may be unsure what to do, whom to call, and if they or others will be punished if they seek help for a friend.

The core foundation of this proposal is to build upon the natural influence that peers can have on each other.  The emphasis of this project is to prepare existing, natural “influencers” to be more skilled, more effective and more supportive of promoting help-seeking among their peers. This project will complement existing programs and policies, with a specific focus on raising awareness of existing resources and promoting help-seeking behaviors when concerns related to alcohol or other drug use may be present.

The Student Athlete Advisory Council, the Student Government Association and other campus influencers are committed to supporting a campaign that specifically addresses how to intervene if a medical emergency related to intoxication is suspected. The proposed project will promote the benefits of enhancing help-seeking norms that result in a change among students in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors about the importance of getting help for students who appear to be too intoxicated to care for themselves.

The grant program will be implemented across UCF’s campus, with the potential to impact  a significant number of students. During the 2018-19 school year, UCF enrolled 58,913 undergraduate students. Of these, 12,282 lived on campus or in campus affiliate/managed housing, 4, 033 were first-time freshmen, 6,907 were new transfer students, 3,250 were members of the Greek life and 491 were student-athletes participating in at least one of UCF’s 16 athletic teams within the AAC Conference.

University of Miami (Florida) (Division I; Atlantic Coast Conference)

Given that the power of peer influence has been well documented as a best practice in health education programming on college campuses, Miami (Florida) recognizes the power that the Hurricanes have. Student-athletes carry significant cultural influence on campus and currently sit as an untapped resource in addressing social behaviors tied to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

The NCAA CHOICES grant will allow the university to develop a ’Canes Connected peer education program, which aims to address problems related to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs among all students at Miami. The main goal is to create a safer and healthier environment for all students, both athletes and others. The more specific goals of this program include the following:

  • Develop a network of student peer educators, both athlete and nonathlete, to promote healthy behaviors on campus.
  • Correct misconceptions of social norms related to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs on campus.
  • Reduce high-risk alcohol and cannabis use and the negative consequences associated with it.
  • Promote a culture among student-athletes that encourages intervention in high-risk situations and discourages hazing.

’Canes Connected is a commitment from the division of student affairs, department of athletics and all Miami Hurricanes to promote healthy lifestyles, as personal and social responsibility, and to educate students about the negative consequences of high-risk use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

’Canes Connected provides a platform that will increase awareness and commitment within the campus community to create an environment in which a change in attitudes, behaviors and use of substances is possible and participation in high-risk behaviors is reduced.

Established in 1925 during the region’s famous real estate boom, Miami is a major research university composed of 11 schools and colleges serving 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 180 majors and programs. Miami is a vibrant academic community focused on teaching and learning, the discovery of new knowledge and service to the South Florida region and beyond. Its students represent a diverse student body that hail from all 50 states and over 150 foreign countries.

The Miami Hurricanes are part of the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference and field 17 varsity sports. The department of athletics is dedicated to developing and supporting its more than 400 student-athletes in their efforts to achieve personal, academic and athletic excellence. Miami’s football team has won five national championships since 1983, and the baseball team has won four national championships since 1982. Additionally, the Division of Student Affairs supports approximately 50 club sports that provide diverse, competitive sports opportunities for students across a broad range of skill levels and experiences.

University of Texas at Arlington (Division I; Sun Belt Conference)

UT Arlington is committed to providing a safe, nurturing and inclusive learning environment that maximizes student success inside and outside the classroom. In support of this mission, the innovative MAVS Choices program seeks to address and change the UT Arlington culture about alcohol consumption with an overarching goal of reducing underage drinking and substance abuse. MAVS Choices will support peer-to-peer educational efforts, establish an enhanced alcohol education program integrated with the athletics department, and promote alternative, alcohol-free social activities. The entire student population will be informed of the program’s activities, but student-athletes, campus leaders, and incoming freshmen will be specifically targeted. Other key populations engaged by MAVS Choices will be the nearly 9,000 students who live on and around campus and those who participate in UT Arlington’s more than 260 active student organizations.

MAVS Choices will feature multiple key objectives aimed at reducing risky behaviors among students and strengthening ties to proven UT Arlington programs that focus on student success and wellness. MAVS Choices will train selected student-athlete leaders to serve as peer mentors whose primary purpose is to educate the target audiences about the risks of drinking, underage drinking and substance abuse. All objectives will be promoted through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Student-Athlete Mentors. Program objectives include the following:

  • Establish strong collaborations with student affairs and university health services to promote awareness. MAVS Choices will partner with experienced UT Arlington staff members and capitalize on existing programs with similar goals. Examples include a social norms campaign, National Hazing Prevention Week, First Friday events and National Drug Facts Week.
  • Educate student-athletes and athletics department staff. This includes increasing the level of alcohol-related educational programs for all student-athletes as well as implementing a program to educate coaches and staff on substance abuse.
  • Offer a variety of educational and alternative entertainment activities for students. MAVS Choices will support current educational and alternative entertainment activities and plan new ones that appeal to the entire campus community. Activities will include sports events, social gatherings, game nights and ladies’ night.
  • Train student-athletes to become teachers and use their influence to promote better decision-making among all UT Arlington students. Training will include the APPLE Conference as well as opportunities supported by UT Arlington’s counseling and psychological services, health services and student affairs.

UT Arlington is a comprehensive, urban-serving research institution dedicated to developing career-ready graduates for areas of high workforce need. Founded in 1895, UT Arlington became part of The University of Texas System in 1965 and is one of only 14 universities in the U.S. to achieve the designations of Carnegie R-1 Highest Research Activity and Hispanic-Serving Institution. Enrollment reached a record 43,939 students in spring 2019, including 28,300 undergraduates. UT Arlington’s 226 student-athletes compete on eight women’s and seven men’s teams. In summary, the MAVS Choices program will help curb alcohol abuse while encouraging healthy alternatives for UT Arlington’s rapidly growing student population

Utica College (Division III; Empire 8)

Utica seeks to establish a Red Watch Band, a bystander intervention program designed to train students on when and how to intervene when faced with toxic drinking, dispel myths related to drinking, and ultimately change the culture of the institution as it relates to students’ attitudes toward drinking and behaviors regarding drinking. While this program will be open to all students, the training and programming will be directed toward athletes.

The Red Watch Band bystander intervention training is intended to prevent deaths and other harm caused by alcohol overdose. The Red Watch Band program has two primary focuses. The first is a comprehensive bystander intervention program designed to provide students with the knowledge, skills and awareness to prevent death from toxic drinking. The program includes CPR and AED training in conjunction with alcohol education and elaborate role playing to help the student recognize the signs of alcohol overdose and when and how to call for help. Red Watch Band-trained students will understand how alcohol effects human physiology and behavior, how to recognize an alcohol-related medical emergency, and how to respond appropriately and in accordance with college policies. Secondly, Red Watch Band recruits students to serve as part of the Red Watch Band Care Team. The Red Watch Band CARE Team is a peer education group composed of student leaders who conduct outreach with their peers in multiple settings in an effort to increase participation in the Red Watch Band training program and enhance the efforts of other alcohol overdose prevention offerings. The Red Watch Band CARE Team members promote healthy behaviors and reduce high-risk drinking and the harmful consequences often associated with overconsumption of alcohol.

Utica is a comprehensive, private college in Utica, New York, that offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The college enrolls more than 5,000 full- and part-time students on campus and online and offers 38 undergraduate majors, 31 minors and 21 graduate programs, and numerous preprofessional, specialty and certificate programs. There are 2,432 undergraduate students studying at the main Utica campus, which is the focus of this proposal. Students hail from over 45 different states and 39 different countries. Originally founded in 1946 as a subsidiary of Syracuse and established to meet the needs of returning World War II veterans, Utica has a strong record of providing educational opportunities to underserved and underrepresented students, first-generation learners and other nontraditional students.

Utica athletics plays an integral part in college life: There are 26 intercollegiate teams, with nearly 35% of the entire undergraduate body (a total of 854 students) participate in an NCAA-sanctioned sport. There are an additional nine intramural athletics leagues, eight two- or three-day club athletic events, and another 10 one-day athletic events, with all activity being managed by the athletics department.

West Virginia State University (Division II; Mountain East Conference)

West Virginia State’s vision is to develop and implement a campuswide program that will coincide with the NCAA’s theme of encouraging students to make choices that are legal, healthy, appropriate and safe with regard to alcohol use. The university intends to disseminate this vision predominately through a peer-to-peer education platform modeled after the Step UP! Bystander Intervention Program. Step Up! is a prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others.

This program strives to provide a varied approach to alcohol awareness, incorporating a peer education piece to inform students on alcohol issues, as well as host a core of regularly held events that call attention to alternative means of socializing that are not alcohol related.

The more formal training component of the alcohol education piece uses college students as the backbone of a speaker’s bureau where they will conduct presentations in a variety of settings including academic classes, athletic team meetings, campus organizational meetings, new student orientations, etc. The format and presentation method will vary depending on the audience and the request of the host, but could include theatrical presentations, game shows, lectures, etc. Student facilitators will be sought among the 225 student-athletes and the general student population, striving for a cross-mix representative of the population.

The events include an annual Alcohol Awareness Week held in the fall and an annual Safe Spring Break hosted in the spring. Other events of a smaller scope will be added as the program matures or the need is identified.

Additionally, all student-athletes will be encouraged to take the #Set the Expectation Men’s or Women’s Team Pledge. The pledge describes expectations of behavior for student-athletes. The pledge specifically outlines athletes not engaging in harmful behavior such as rape, sexual assault, physical violence, domestic violence, stalking, bullying, and taking or sharing photos and videos of a sexually explicit nature.

Founded in 1891, West Virginia State is a public, land-grant, historically black university located in Institute, West Virginia, near Charleston. West Virginia State has 1,708 undergraduate students and a 17-to-1 student/faculty ratio providing educational opportunities to a diverse population of students. The university fields 10 sports — five for men and five for women — with a total of 225 student-athletes.