• 65,000 student-athletes

• 25 national championships

• More than 250 colleges and universities and 21 conferences

• $600 million in 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 65,000 student-athletes have the opportunity to play college sports at NAIA member institutions.

The seed of the NAIA began in 1937 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 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.

NAIA History

1937 | Dr. James Naismith and local leaders form the 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 the 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 athletics 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 are adopted.

2000 | NAIA introduces Champions of Character program emphasizing character development among NAIA student-athletes.

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

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

2010 | NAIA opens the NAIA Eligibility Center.

2014 | NAIA becomes the only college athletics association to offer NAIA Showcases, official recruiting events, where prospective student-athletes can show their skills and connect with NAIA coaches and admissions staff.

2016 | Competitive Cheer & Dance become the 24th and 25th National Championships in the history of the Association, announced (April 16) at the National Convention. Competitive Cheer & Dance is the first to earn national championship status in the NAIA in a span of 22 years – NAIA Women’s Golf became a championship sport prior to the spring of 1995. The NAIA is the only athletics association to offer a national championship in this sport.

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