KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After announcing the latest round of five institutions approved for membership, including one NCAA school, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has added a second membership cycle to attract additional NCAA prospects.
Among the new members to join in 2020-21, Oakland City University from Oakland City, Ind., became the sixth NCAA institution in recent years to return to the NAIA. The association is also in active membership discussions with nearly a dozen other NCAA members and inquiries are increasing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The NAIA offers the opportunity for institutions to be nationally competitive, while also reducing athletics expenditures,” said NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr. “We also focus on the specific priorities of our member institutions through our Return on Athletics® (ROA) effort, providing our members analytics tools to drive enrollment, increase student success, and improve financial stability through athletics.”
The new application cycle will allow institutions more time to prepare for the NCAA to NAIA transition, as well as the additional visibility for coaches to recruit student-athletes under the NAIA brand. The cycle will begin in mid-summer, with a final decision in early October and membership beginning the following July.
In addition to those schools returning from the NCAA, others are seeking out the NAIA rather than NCAA for their first foray into collegiate athletics. These include Texas A&M-San Antonio and University of North Texas at Dallas, which have parent campuses in NCAA Division I.
A notable benefit for NCAA schools returning to the NAIA is that former members have immediate eligibility for NAIA postseason play.
Two institutions that recently returned – Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Thomas More (Ky.) – have both had immediate success in their first year returning to NAIA competition.
After returning to the NAIA in 2018, the Oklahoma Panhandle football team finished second in the Sooner Athletic Conference with a 6-2 record.
Similarly, Thomas More qualified for the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship its first year as a returning NAIA member. The Saints qualified as a No. 5-seed in the national championship field and finished third in the Mid-South Conference..