By Craig T. Bogar, Ed.D.
Guest Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
Faculty Director, School of Health Sciences; Associate Professor, Sports Management
Presumably, it would be quite difficult to find a sports fan in the U.S. that did not know about the NCAA. There is, however, another group called the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) that holds a special place in the history of intercollegiate athletics.
In 1937, a men’s college basketball tournament was held in Kansas City, Missouri, and from that tournament, the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) was formed. In 1952, the NAIB was transformed into the NAIA, as the association added championships in golf, tennis, and outdoor track and field. In 1953, the NAIA became the first collegiate association to invite historically black institutions into its membership and in 1957, Tennessee State became the first historically black institution to win an intercollegiate basketball national championship. Also unique to its history is that in 1980, the NAIA became the first intercollegiate athletics association to sponsor national championships for both men and women (naia.org, 2015).
While in its heyday in the 1970’s, there were over 500 member institutions, today there are just over 200 schools. The NAIA, however, still remains a viable organization, as it holds national championships in 23 sports for men and women. Throughout its history, the NAIA has primarily served small institutions, although there are currently larger institutions that hold membership, such as the University of British Columbia with 44,000 students, Indiana University-South Bend with 8,300 students, and the Savanah College of Arts and Design with an enrollment of 8,200 (naia.org, 2015).
One common misconception is that the NAIA is not athletically competitive with the NCAA and does allow its member institutions to award athletic scholarships. In actuality, however, many NAIA institutions are quite competitive athletically and in some cases, award more scholarships than schools in Division I of the NCAA. For example, the NAIA allows 12 full scholarships in baseball whereas the NCAA Division I allows 11.7. In men’s soccer, the NCAA Division I allows 9.9 full scholarships as opposed to the NAIA that allows 12 (naia.org, 2015, ncaa.org, 2015).
The number of contests allowed by the NAIA enhance its reputation for athletic competitiveness. In this regard, the NAIA’s number of allowable contests is also comparable to the NCAA Division I. For instance, the NAIA allows 55 baseball games per year; the NCAA Division I allows 56. In volleyball, the NAIA permits the same number of contests (28) as Division I (naia.org, 2015, ncaa.org, 2015).
The NAIA has stayed true to its roots as both the national office and men’s basketball tournament, while having moved to Tulsa at one point, are back in their original location of Kansas City. The association has its eye on the future however, with its highly successful Champions of Character program, and through its Sports Showcases, the NAIA is the only college athletics association to offer official events for prospective student-athletes with professional athletic assessments and NAIA coaches on-site (naia.org, 2015).
NAIA.org (2015). Retrieved from http://www.naia.org/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=27900&ATCLID=205323019
NCAA.org (2015). NCAA Division I Manual. Retrieved from http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/usc/genrel/auto_pdf/2013-14/misc_non_event/ncaa-manual.pdf
Dr. Craig Bogar is the Faculty Director for the School of Health Sciences and an associate professor of sport management with the American Public University System. He has taught sport management both on ground and online for many years. He previously worked in the College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama as a Project Coordinator and faculty member for Pre-Doctoral Training. He was a college athletics director at Loyola University-New Orleans and the University of Mobile. He also coached swimming and track respectively at those institutions. In addition, he has worked as a college recreation/intramurals director. At the United States Sports Academy, he served as the Dean of Student Services, the Assistant Dean of Administration and Finance, and the Director of Administration. He also taught courses for the United States Sports Academy in the Kingdoms of Bahrain and Thailand. Dr. Bogar has a bachelor’s degree from Bryant University, in Rhode Island, a master’s degree from the University of Maryland and his doctorate is from the United States Sports Academy.