National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics logo.svg
AbbreviationNAIA
MottoCharacter-driven intercollegiate athletics
Formation1940
Legal statusAssociation
Headquarters1200 Grand Blvd
Kansas City, Missouri 64106[1]
Region served
United States, Canada, Bahamas, and US Virgin Islands
Membership
251
President
Jim Carr
Main organ
NAIA Council of Presidents
Budget
$7.5 million[2]
Websitewww.NAIA.org, www.PlayNAIA.org

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a college athletics association for small colleges and universities in North America. For the 2018–2019 season, it has 251 member institutions,[3] of which two are in British Columbia, one in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the rest in the conterminous United States.[4] The NAIA, whose headquarters is in Kansas City, Missouri,[5] sponsors 26 national championships. The CBS Sports Network, formerly called CSTV, serves as the national media outlet for the NAIA.[6] In 2014, ESPNU began carrying the NAIA Football National Championship.

History[]

NAIA headquarters near the Power and Light District and Sprint Center in Downtown Kansas City.

In 1937, Dr. James Naismith and local leaders staged the first National College Basketball Tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City—one year before the first National Invitation Tournament and two years before the first NCAA Tournament. The goal of the tournament was to establish a forum for small colleges and universities to determine a national basketball champion. The original eight-team tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1938. On March 10, 1940, the National Association for Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) was formed in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1952, the NAIB was transformed into the NAIA, and with that came the sponsorship of additional sports such as men's golf, tennis and outdoor track and field.[7] Football in the NAIA was split into two divisions in 1970, based on enrollment (Div. I & Div. II); it was consolidated back into a single division in 1997.

African-American participation[]

The 1948 NAIB national tournament was the first intercollegiate postseason to feature a black student-athlete, Clarence Walker of Indiana State under coach John Wooden. Wooden had withdrawn from the 1947 tournament because the NAIB would not allow Walker to play.[8]

The association furthered its commitment to African-American athletes when, in 1953, it became the first collegiate association to invite historically black colleges and universities into its membership. In 1957, Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State) became the first historically black institution to win a collegiate basketball national championship.

Female participation[]

The NAIA began sponsoring intercollegiate championships for women in 1980, the second coed national athletics association to do so, offering collegiate athletics championships to women in basketball, cross country, gymnastics, indoor and outdoor track and field, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and volleyball. The National Junior College Athletic Association had established a women's division in the spring of 1975 and held the first women's national championship volleyball tournament that fall.

In 1997, Liz Heaston became the first female college athlete to play and score in a college football game when she kicked two extra points during the 1997 Linfield vs. Willamette football game.[9]

Champions of Character[]

Launched in 2000 by the NAIA, the Champions of Character program promotes character and sportsmanship through athletics. The Champions of Character conducts clinics and has developed an online training course to educate athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators with the skills necessary to promote character development in the context of sport.

Eligibility Center[]

In 2010, the association opened the doors to the NAIA Eligibility Center, where prospective student-athletes are evaluated for academic and athletic eligibility. It delivers on the NAIA’s promise of integrity by leveling the playing field, guiding student-athlete success, and ensuring fair competition. [10]

Other firsts[]

Membership – The NAIA was the first association to admit colleges and universities from outside the United States. The NAIA began admitting Canadian members in 1967.

Football – The NAIA was the first association to send a football team to Europe to play. In the summer of 1976, the NAIA sent Henderson State and Texas A&I to play 5 exhibition games in West Berlin, Vienna, Nuremberg, Mannheim and Paris.[11]

Championship sports[]

The NAIA sponsors 14 sports in which it conducts 26 annual championships (13 for men, 12 for women). The NAIA recognizes three levels of competitions: "emerging" (15 or more institutions sponsoring as varsity and declared), "invitational" (25 or more institutions sponsoring as varsity and declared for postseason, Approval of the National Administrative Council), and "championship" (40 or more institutions sponsoring as varsity, Minimum of two Invitationals held, Approval of the National Administrative Council).[12] The association conducts, or has conducted in the past, championship tournaments in the following sports (year established).[13]

Basketball championships[]

The NAIA men's basketball championship is the longest-running collegiate National Championship of any sport in the United States. The tournament was the brainchild of Dr. James Naismith, creator of the game of basketball; Emil Liston, athletic director at Baker University; and Frank Cramer, founder of Cramer Athletic Products.

The event began in 1937 with the inaugural tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO. The 2017 men's championship marked the 80th ion of what has been tabbed College Basketball’s Toughest Tournament. The tournament has awarded the Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player award since 1939, as well as the Charles Stevenson Hustle Award ("Charlie Hustle"), which was the basis for Pete Rose's nickname, given to him by Whitey Ford. Basketball is currently the only NAIA sport in which the organization's member institutions are aligned into divisions.

Effective with the 2020–21 school year, the NAIA will return to a single division for both men's and women's basketball.[14]

Other championship sports[]