Please note this is an update to a brief that was originally published on August 8, 2016.
In this brief, we will discuss the different categories of a sport within the NAIA. It is important to understand how a sport is categorized before it becomes a championship sport because it will dictate whether or not the coaches and players within the sport must follow all NAIA policies and bylaws.
Each sport within our association passes through different categorizations before it becomes a championship sport within the NAIA. The categories before becoming a championship sport are emerging sport status and invitational sport status. Once a sport has established at least two years under invitational status, the National Administrative Council (NAC) will review whether or not the sport is ready to become a championship sport.
The most recent sports to reach championship status are the sports of Competitive Cheer and Competitive Dance. At the 2016 National Convention, Competitive Cheer and Competitive Dance were named the NAIA's 24th and 25th championship sports.
The next three sports that are currently being reviewed for championship status are the sports of Men's Volleyball, Men's Lacrosse, and Women's Lacrosse. These sports have served two years under invitational status and will continue to be categorized as invitational status through the 2017-2018 academic year.
The sports of Men's Bowling and Women's Bowling have served under the categorization of emerging sport for the past few years, but will now be moving into the first year of invitational status for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Emerging Sport Status
A sport is considered emerging if 15 or more active NAIA member institutions sponsor it as a varsity intercollegiate sport and declare their intent to participate in NAIA postseason competition. The institution's Declaration of Intent to Participate certificate shall serve as an institution's official designation of sponsorship. For more information on what the Declaration of Intent (DOI) is, please visit this brief regarding the basics of a DOI and this brief regarding which teams should be included in the DOI.
As an emerging sport, the players and coaches who participate in this sport are not subject to the NAIA policies and bylaws. It is understood that during this period, the students and coaches involved in the sport are operating under the sport association rules that govern that particular sport.
For example, during 2016-2017 academic school year, the sport of bowling was considered an emerging sport. The students and coaches who participated in this sport while at an NAIA institution were certified under the sport rules that govern the sport of bowling. The coaches and students in the sport of bowling are not subject to NAIA policies or bylaws until they have reached the second year of invitational status.
Invitational Sport Status
A sport reaches invitational status by having 25 or more institutions sponsor the sport as a varsity intercollegiate sport and declare their intent to participate in a NAIA postseason competition. During this time, the coaches under this sport work with the National Office to create a coach's manual and rulebook specific for the sport. A sport may be categorized as an invitational sport for at least two years until the National Administrative Council vote to determine if the sport is ready to move into a championship sport within the NAIA.
A sport may be categorized as an invitational sport for an indefinite amount of time. The important process during this time is to ensure the coaches and students who compete for their respective sport are ready to move from a governance that fell under their sport's own association to being governed under NAIA bylaws and policies. The National Office will work closely with the coaches in the sport to ensure a seamless transition under NAIA governance.
A key turning point within the invitational status is the second year of invitational status. During the second year of invitational status, all coaches and athletes that are competing in the invitational sport must follow all NAIA policies and bylaws. For the 2016-2017 academic year, coaches and players who competed in the sports of Men's Volleyball, Men's Lacrosse, and Women's Lacrosse all had to adhere to the NAIA bylaws. Coaches within these particular sports must follow all bylaws pertaining to practice, competition, recruiting, etc., and students must be certified eligible under NAIA bylaws. This includes receiving an Eligibility Center determination, if needed.
Our next brief will go more in depth in discussing whether or not players in invitational sports need an Eligibility Center decision prior to competing. This is commonly known within our association as being “grandfathered” into the Eligibility Center or receiving an exception to obtaining an Eligibility Center decision.
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