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NAIA History & Facts

NAIA History & Facts

Monday, August 4, 2014
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62,000 student-athletes

13 sports and 23 national championships

More than 260 colleges and universities and conferences

• $500 million in athletic scholarships

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.

Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall college educational experience. 

The student-athlete is the center of all NAIA experiences. Each year more than 62,000 student-athletes have the opportunity to play college sports at NAIA member institutions.

The seed of the NAIA began in 76 years ago with the tipoff of a men's basketball tournament in Kansas City that has become the longest running event in college basketball. Out of the tournament grew the NAIA, an association that has been an innovative leader.  The NAIA was the first collegiate athletics association to invite historically black institutions into membership and the first to sponsor both men’s and women’s national championships.

In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character building aspects of sport. Through Champions of Character, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values.

In 2010, the NAIA opened the 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.

NAIA History

1937 | Dr. James Naismith and local leaders form National College Basketball. Tournament staged at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO.

1938 | Basketball tournament expands to 32 teams

1940 | National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) formed; first convention held

1948 | John Wooden's Indiana State team brings first African-American student-athlete to the NAIB tournament

1952 | NAIB adopts new moniker - National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) - and introduces men's championships in golf, tennis and outdoor track and field

1953 | NAIA becomes first collegiate association to invite historically black institutions into membership        

1957 | Tennessee State becomes the first historically black institution to win a collegiate basketball national championship

1980 | NAIA becomes first collegiate athletics association to sponsor both men's and women's championships by adding women's basketball, cross country, gymnastics, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and volleyball championships

1986 | NAIA Council of Presidents moves from advisory to governance role

1988 | Strict academic eligibility standards for all participating student-athletes adopted

2000 | NAIA introduces Champions of Character program along with its new brand emphasizing character development among NAIA student-athletes

2001 | NAIA headquarters returns to metro Kansas City in partnership with the city of Olathe, KS.

2007 | NAIA opens new headquarters in downtown Kansas City, MO. 

2010 | NAIA opens the NAIA Eligibility Center.

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