The new members are Cleary University (Mich.), College of St. Joseph (Vt.), Florida College, Life Pacific College (Calif.), Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Rust College (Miss.) and University of Maine at Fort Kent.
Additionally, current members Providence Christian (Calif.) and Crowley’s Ridge (Ark.) were approved to move from associate to active member status by the NAIA Council of Presidents, allowing both institutions.
“We’re excited to welcome these seven outstanding institutions to the NAIA,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “Each of these schools value character driven athletics and are a great fit for our association.”
Established in 1866, Rust College is the oldest of the new members to the association. The Bearcats currently sponsors 10 varsity sports – baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field.
Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which will join the Sooner Athletic Conference and Central States Football League, is the lone football playing institution among the group. The Aggies, which previously competed as a member of NCAA Division II, are immediately eligible for postseason.
Four of the new members were previously affiliated with the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), while the other two came from the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and NCAA.
The NAIA is in the sixth year of the current membership process, in which institutions apply for membership consideration on an annual basis. Schools must meet membership criteria that include financial stability, sports sponsorship, accreditation, and a commitment to character-driven athletics. Enrollment numbers, graduation percentages, retention rates, and overall athletics budgets are also taken into consideration.
Additionally, Providence Christian (Calif.) and Crowley’s Ridge (Ark.) were approved to move from association to active member status by the NAIA Council of Presidents.