The evolution of the Panthers

Davenport University’s athletic program has evolved over time to become a force to be reckoned with. 

Over the years, numerous strategic improvements have been made under the leadership of Paul Lowden, executive director of intercollegiate athletics. These improvements include the construction of state-of-the-art athletic facilities, the expansion of the number of athletic programs, especially in women’s sports, and the move to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). 

Through all of these changes, one thing has remained constant: the university’s steadfast commitment to its student-athletes.

How times have changed.

Davenport University athletics re-emerged in 2002 after a more than 20-year absence. At that time, Davenport only offered women’s basketball and men’s hockey and had a total of 24 student-athletes. Today, Davenport offers an impressive 46 programs (21 men’s, 22 women’s, and three co-ed) and has more than 1,000 student-athletes. 

“It has been an amazing opportunity to lead Davenport University’s athletic department since 2001,” said Paul Lowden. “Through collaboration and university leadership support the athletic program has grown tremendously over the years and is something the entire Davenport community should be very proud of.” 

Lowden said one area that has really changed is women’s sports. The expansion of women’s sports grew exponentially between 2006 and 2009, when Davenport added 11 new women’s athletic programs. Since then, Davenport has continued to grow women’s sports by adding tennis, hockey, rugby, stunt, pompon, swimming and diving, wrestling, powerlifting and ultimate frisbee. 

Co-ed marching band, pep band and esports programs have also been added. 

The conference in which Davenport competes has also evolved. The university previously competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and as a regional member in the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC). Davenport then started the transition to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) in 2016 at the Division II level and became a full member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) in 2017. 

“Joining the NCAA has been a very positive and natural fit for Davenport University,” said Lowden.

“Davenport has won many National Championships in the sports of men’s hockey, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, cheer, stunt, dance, men’s rugby, women’s rugby and esports,” said Lowden. “And I have no doubt we will add more championship titles to that list in the coming years.”

Coach highlights

Davenport’s athletic program would not be what it is today without the coaches and support staff who mold student-athletes into winners on and off the field of play. Here, we highlight a few coaches and learn how their programs have changed. 


Scott Cook – track and field

Scott Cook has been coaching track and field for 17 years and said a lot has changed since he was hired to start the university’s track and cross-country teams. In his first year, the team was so small that they rode to meets in a van, but today, two buses are needed to transport them all. Another thing that has grown is the coaching staff. Cook spent several years coaching every event and considers himself fortunate to now have four assistant coaches to help athletes meet their goals. 

“Our men’s track and field team posted its highest national ranking in team history in early February, and the women’s team will be right with them soon,” said Cook.  “Men’s and women’s cross country are also coming off their best seasons in program history.”  

Cook said the team’s goal is to be one of the top track and field programs at the NCAA Division II level.  

“We recruit great athletes, great students, and most importantly, great people,” said Cook. “With a team filled with student-athletes like that, we can achieve amazing things.” 


Patrick Grashorn – men’s and women’s tennis

Patrick Grashorn is in his 14th season coaching men’s and women’s tennis. 

For the first half of Grashorn’s tenure at Davenport, his team competed in the WHAC conference. Through player development and recruiting, they climbed to the top of the conference and were consistently ranked nationally. Transitioning to the GLIAC in 2017-2018 was a bit of a challenge, but the team continues to grow stronger every year, thanks to talented players and a dedicated coaching staff.

“Over the years, I’ve been surrounded by a tremendous support staff who share my vision for the program,” said Grashorn. “My coaches and the athletic training staff have worked hard to support and build our team into what it is today, and that’s a team that will be competing for conference championships this year and beyond.” 

Grashorn said his focus is for the team to improve every day, and with this growth will come new and exciting challenges and personal development on and off the court. 


Kevin Tidey – baseball

Kevin Tidey has been involved with Davenport’s baseball team for 15 years, three years as an assistant coach and the last 12 as head coach. 

Tidey helped build the program from the ground up.

“When we started, we didn’t have our own field, so we played at East Kentwood High School and now have one of the best DII baseball facilities in the country,” said Tidey.

The team has been blessed with multiple conference championships, six regional appearances, and a World Series appearance, and has been the most winning program in Michigan at any level over the last 12 years.  

Tidey said the program’s future looks bright, and they are working hard to qualify for the DII World Series in Cary, NC.

“I think our guys are killing it on the field and in the classroom,” Tidey said.  “We have a culture in place that gets better every year, and the chemistry of our team is what helps us excel.” 


Chris Hughes – men’s soccer

Chris Hughes has been coaching the men’s soccer team for 12 years. He and his coaching staff challenge their players to strive for excellence on and off the field and take every opportunity to teach them about the real world.

 “It’s been exciting to be part of Davenport’s men’s soccer team and to help guide the program and watch it evolve over the years,” said Hughes. “Highlights include starting in the NAIA, winning a national championship in 2014, and transitioning into NCAA DII in 2017.”

Hughes said the program is a constant contender for a championship in the GLIAC, and they take great pride in finding consistency year after year.

“The standards we set for our program and our players are high, which allow us to compete and continue to compete with the best teams in the conference and the region,” said Hughes.  

Hughes said he challenges all his athletes to never to take the opportunity they’ve been given for granted.

“I tell my players to love each moment and choose to be the best they can be, and if we stick together, we will be champions on and off the field,” he said.

To learn more about Davenport’s athletic programs, visit


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