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Return on Athletics® Defined

What is Return on Athletics?

Return on Athletics (ROA) is the NAIA’s proprietary approach to the management of collegiate athletics. It distinguishes the NAIA from its competitors by aligning collegiate athletics with the priorities of our member institutions, specifically enrollment, student success, and financial viability.



Data: The Foundation of ROA

ROA begins with the collection and analysis of institutional data. Schools submit data regarding the enrollment, retention, and aid awarded to student-athletes, as well as information about individual sports programs. While many schools already collect these data points, it’s the centralization of this information – both between institutional departments and among NAIA members – that makes the data significant.


Using Data to Enhance Value

While a key component of ROA, data collection is just the first step. It’s the dual-use of the data to identify how NAIA athletics drives institutional enrollment, student success, and financial goals that make ROA valuable.

First, institutions will have access to data analytics tools that will show how specific efforts and adjustments to an athletics program can affect the overall health of the institution. Second, the NAIA will use the data to implement specific process changes that support our members’ priorities.


ROA Initial Goals (2018-19)

  1. Identify institutional opportunities to increase the value of athletics with data analytics including:
    • Year-over-year comparisons to assess athletics’ effectiveness in driving institutional goals
    • Peer institution comparisons to identify potential options for growth and effectiveness
    • A net revenue calculator that provides estimated revenue based on number of athletes, discount rate, retention, and expenses
  2. Implement NAIA process changes that allow institutions to advance enrollment, student success, and financial outlook
looking ahead

ROA Long-term Goals (2020 and forward)

  1. Serve as a guiding principle for the NAIA’s business and regulation processes, providing measurable value for members and student-athletes
  2. Strengthen the NAIA’s position as the experts in the business of small college athletics through data analytics specific to small and moderately sized institutions
  3. Provide measurable results to prospective and current NAIA institutions, thereby increasing NAIA membership and retention


President Jim Carr appeared on the Success Is A Choice podcast and discussed ROA.


Learn more about ROA.