Why Choose the NAIA?

Founded in 1937, the NAIA is an affiliation of small college athletics programs, dedicated to enhancing the character-building aspects of sports and driving enrollment through athletics.


The NAIA Difference
Though very similar in competitiveness and basic operations to other athletics associations, the NAIA has one major philosophical difference. The NAIA operates under the belief that it is responsible for administering basic standards, set by its members and driven by safety, fair play and character development. Beyond that, the NAIA believes that the member institutions have the abilities and rights to make the major operational decisions that guide and customize their athletics programs to meet their individual needs.

The NAIA Priorities
The NAIA mission is to “position member institutions to maximize Return on Athletics™(ROA)
and optimize the student-athlete experience.”  NAIA programming, therefore, focuses on the following two priorities:

  • High level collegiate experience for the student-athlete
  • Enhancing the “Return on Athletics” for NAIA institutional members

The NAIA Student-Athlete Experience
The NAIA student-athlete is foremost a college student, who, in addition to earning a four-year degree, wants to continue playing his or her sport. Of all the athletic associations, in recent years the NAIA has shown the largest growth in opportunities for these student-athletes to pursue this goal.*

Student-athletes are at the center of the NAIA. Their needs and ambitions guide association decisions. Initiatives to assist them in becoming quality, character-driven adults include:

  • Quality competition
  • Champions of Character™ training
  • Coach/student mentoring
  • National championship opportunities

The NAIA Return on Athletics
NAIA athletics programming strives to enhance the returns on the investment made into the athletics department of each of its institutional members. The primary return, recruiting and retention of student-athletes, at NAIA schools are supported by:

  1. Simple rules, created by members, that are easy to administer and centered on the best interest of the students.
  2. Rules that foster recruitment and retention, allowing unlimited coach and student interaction
  3. The choice on whether to offer financial assistance to students who participate in athletics, regardless whether it is named academic, leadership or athletic aid.
  4. Opportunities to increase enrollment through junior varsity and dual sport athletes, emerging sports opportunities and guidance, plus national recruiting assistance.
  5. High-caliber athletics at reasonable costs, due to fewer staffing, reporting and compliance requirements.
  6. Freedom to construct athletic programs that align with the institution’s mission and budget, resulting in:
  • An overall lower cost per student than all other comparable associations
    • Operating costs per student (D-III does not report aid to students that participate in athletics)
      • NAIA: $6,800
      • NCAA-DIII: $9,700
  • Athletics Budget (including operating costs and athletic aid)
    • NAIA: $12,800
    • NCAA D-II: $17,000

Click here for comparison document of NAIA vs. NCAA


* NAIA members have an overall student-athlete participation growth rate of 21.3% over the last five years, as opposed to 8.8% at NCAA D-II and 6.4% at NCAA D-III, due in part to the disproportionate growth of the enrollment/athletic opportunities ratio at larger NCAA schools.
Data sources include: EADA 2014-15; IPED 2014, NAIAHelp Database, NCAA Facts & Figures, D-II and D-III