Member Spotlight: NAIA
Sep 11, 2020
When you’re an organization known for putting on dozens of college athletic championships each year, you have to do some quick pivoting during a global pandemic. But the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has been able to do just that during the time of COVID-19. We are featuring them in our latest Member Spotlight.
The NAIA’s roots to both basketball and Kansas City run deep. They were founded in 1937 by Dr. James Naismith himself and several local business leaders. The NAIA began as the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball – the creator of the modern collegiate basketball tournament organizing hundreds of schools across the nation – and even internationally. “We are a collegiate athletics association that manages 27 championships for approximately 250 small colleges and universities around the United States, U.S. Territories and Canada,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “The NAIA’s vision is “the experts in the business of small college athletics.”
While the NAIA is known as the innovators of the modern college basketball tournament, much has changed since the 1930’s. The National Collegiate Athletic Association – NCAA – and the NAIA both operate their tournaments throughout the month of March, which have become staples of the sports landscape in our country. While both different in their own regard, the NAIA’s goals differ from its counterpart. The NAIA takes great pride in its tournament format which brings all of its teams to one final site. While its setting is unique and provides a more intimate experience for players and fans alike, it also has proven to be the most difficult college basketball tournaments in the nation. Until this year, the final site featured 32 teams, which meant the winning team would have to five games over the course of six days… A true battle of attrition.
“[We] define success by the overall experience that it creates for our student-athletes. The majority of our student-athletes will not play professionally, so we value character-driven competition. This includes our Champions of Character® initiative where we promote having great character on and off the field of play as being equally important to success on it. These five core values are Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Servant Leadership and Sportsmanship.”
This fall however, students will be extra focused on character off the field as the NAIA recently postponed all fall sports tournaments due to COVID. The only other time the basketball tournament was cancelled was in 1942 due to World War II. While it was disappointing, the NAIA knew they couldn’t risk spreading the virus. “Our goal is to put our student-athletes first and find ways to navigate these unprecedented days of college sports.”
Planning for spring will take some hard work, and the NAIA team will have a new space to do that work. Earlier this summer, they moved from 1200 Grand to their new headquarters at 12th and Wyandotte. With 100 employees, the NAIA needed to grow into a bigger more modern space. “We chose the location to stay in Downtown KC to be centrally located to services and have more space for our growing employee base,” said Lynn Parman, NAIA Chief Operating Officer. The NAIA has always had strong KC ties. Not only was it founded here, but the first basketball championship tournament took place at Municipal Auditorium. That’s not all. The NAIA has 21 conferences. Of those, more than a dozen area universities are part of the Heart of America Athletic Conference and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
As the NAIA looks to the spring they are also excited about serving their student-athletes as the school year starts. “We are just as disappointed as they are to not be hosting national championships this fall, but we can’t wait to get things going in the spring. There are more important things right now in our country, so we hope that each of them stays safe, wear a mask and stand ready to host our championships in the spring.- #NAIATogether.”