Difference Between NCAA and NAIA

Two associations that form the governing body of intercollegiate athletics in the United States are the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) (Parent & Smith-Swan, 2013; Fiore, 2009). The main goal of NAIA is organizing college and university athletic and sport programs. Its headquarters are in Kansas, Missouri. It incorporates other institutions outside the United States, especially in Canada. Currently, it has 255 member organizations, sponsoring 23 national championships in 13 sports with CBS Sports Network (formerly CSTV) being its national media (NAIA, 2013). NAIA supports gender equality as a means of promoting equal athletic opportunity and resources distribution to all interested and talented members that join the association (Slack & Parent, 2006). The organization enjoys a continued success in improving the lives of students, coaches, and parents in their operations. In addition, it was the first association to include black colleges and students in its championship programs, organizing women championships at the national levels and the first to develop system-wide initiative with substantive programming. NAIA constitutes of 25 conferences in 14 regions both in United States and Canada with each of the 25 conferences including 5-20 NAIA colleges and universities, each with a goal of improving the athletic talent and academics progress of its members. Recently, because of problems that the institutions of NAIA had faced, the organization lost most of its member institutions to NCAA; thus, most of its current members are private schools (NAIA, 2013).

The NCAA comprises 1281 institutions, conferences, and organizations with its members coming from different colleges and universities in both the United States and Canada. NCAA has its headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. It adopted a three-division set-up that includes Division I, Division II, and Division III, with Division I and II being able to offer scholarships to its members participating in a sport (NCAA, 2014). Division I football was then grouped into I-A, and I-AA later named Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision.

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These two associations are the major sports associations that support athletics progress in colleges and universities in both the United States and Canada. In this regard, this paper addresses the differences in the organization of NAIA and NCAA as major college sports associations in the United States and their roles in the development of talented athletes in the various institutions that are members of the NAIA and NCAA.

Differences in Organizational Structures of NAIA and NCAA

The NAIA comprises 25 conferences distributed in 14 regions (NAIA, 2013). All conferences have 5-20 member colleges and universities, with one or two affiliated conferences within each of the 14 member regions. All regions have their own representatives responsible to the Regional Management Committee. Different member institutions in the NAIA settle the expenses for their participation in the championships. The governance of NAIA starts from the district level progressing to the central governing agency. Thus, the districts with organization committees have administrative powers (NAIA, 2013).

On the other hand, NCAA governance is a three-division system with each division being independent with respect to their functioning (NCAA, 2014). All the divisions have the responsibility of implementing the organization's rules and regulations. NCAA programs cover various expenses incurred by its member organizations when participating in competitions (e.g. transport). For instance, students in Division I and Division II institutions receive athletic scholarships (NCAA, 2014). Day-to-day operations are administered by three separate divisions, which constitute a centralized system of governance in conjunction with the national committee. The revenue of the association is mainly from advertising television networks, marketing fees, and championships; it is redirected back to the membership in terms of direct payments and event services (NCAA Academic and Membership Staff, 2013).

Governance Structure of NAIA

The members of the NAIA are from United States with associate membership accorded to four-year colleges and universities. Annual membership dues of the institutions are decided upon by the Council of Presidents, and the membership existence in the institution is determined by the National Eligibility Committee or the National Conduct and Ethics Committee (NAIA, 2013). The major institutions that constitute the organizational structure of NAIA are the Council of Presidents, the Chief Executive Officer, the National Administrative Council and the Council of Faculty Athletics Representatives. The Council of Presidents is elected from institutional chief executive officers and includes conference representatives, representatives from institutions and member elected choice. They are responsible for initiating policies to govern the progression of NAIA and the member institutions in their participation (NAIA, 2013).

The Chief Executive Officer keeps records of the association's proceedings and is responsible for final decision making in the organization, the funds, projects and activities for successful execution of the organization's mandate (NAIA, 2013). The National Office and the Gender Equity and Leadership Development are all answerable to the Chief Executive Officer. The National Coordinating Committee approves policies developed by the Council of Presidents and the Chief Executive Officer. They are also to serve as a link between the National Administrative Council and the Council of Faculty Athletics representatives (NAIA, 2013).

The National Administrative Council has a role to initiate policies that are set for successful running of the organization, supervision of coaches, athletes, and the ethics of members, and to conduct nominations and elections. The Council of Faculty Athletics Representatives' role is to provide administrative supervision of all the committees within the association and act on recommendations from the committees that are responsible for policy making within the association. With a collaborative network of performance, the association harmonizes its operation to achieve set goals (NAIA, 2013).

Governance Structure of NCAA

The governance of the organization is composed of an Executive Committee made up of member institutional presidents or chancellors who oversee the operation of each division; the body of institutional presidents and the body of athletics administration set policies while athlete representatives make recommendations of policies set forth for the successful operation of the organization. The membership of NCAA is available to colleges, universities, athletics conferences or associations and other groups that are affiliated to intercollegiate athletics (NCAA, 2014). Its administrative structure includes the Executive Committee with institutional chancellors or presidents who oversee the operation of each division. The division organization is in three parts: Division I, Division II, and Division III, with presidents and chancellors of individual institutions given the powers of establishing appropriate organizational structure of their institutions. Each division has institutional presidents who set policies, rules, and regulations for the management and running of each division's activities (NCAA Academic and Membership Staff, 2013).

Division I institutions are divided into Division I-A, Division I-AA and Division I-AAA. Division I-A is the high national level accorded the highest priority in representation of NCAA committees and issues. Division I-AA does not make the same financial commitment as Division I-A, and though their programs are still visible at the national level, they do not disburse revenue as the institutions in Division I-A. Division I-AAA constitutes institutions that do not sponsor university football programs (NCAA Academic and Membership staff, 2013).


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Division II governance includes the Presidents' Council, which comprises one president or chancellor per area for every 22 institutions in the region, who implement policies and sponsor the division legislation. They also have a Management Council with one administrator from each Division II multisport voting conferences, who are representatives of an active member institution with the responsibility of enacting the policies adopted by the Executive Committee and the Presidents' Council (NCAA Academic and Membership Staff, 2013). The Committee of Division II includes the Administrative Committee, the Planning and Finance Committee comprising seven members, the vice chair of the Presidents' Council and vice chair of the Management Council as well as three additional members from the Presidents' Council and two from the Management Council.

Division III has an Executive Committee of 20 members who approve the association's budget and manage operations of the Division. There is also the Presidents' Council, which comprises 15 members whose major responsibility is to implement the policies adopted by the Association's Executive Committee. Another body of governance is the Management Council, which consists of 21 members who implement the policies adopted by the Association's Executive Committee and the Presidents' Council and resolve issues within the division. The Administrative Committee oversees meetings of the Presidents' Council and Management Council related to businesses transactions that promote operation of the association. Division III institutions have a minimum number of competitions and do not offer financial aid to the athletes (NCAA Academic and Membership Staff, 2013).

Effectiveness of the Organizations in Communication to the Membership Their Functions and Responsibilities

Both organizations have manuals that they provide for all its members at the time of joining the association; however, most of the student members and other professionals such as coaches might not access the manual to learn more about their roles and responsibilities in the association. Most of them participate in the championships with the knowledge they have got from fellow students who are already members of the association or members who were once in the association (Parent & Smith-Swan, 2013). With time, the constitutions of the associations are amended, and thus the new members might join expecting different roles and duties just to be disappointed. The NAIA has lost most of its members to the NCAA because of the privileges that the latter provides including revenues and scholarships for the Division I and Division II institutions. As a result, most students might join the NCAA without even going through the roles that they are to play and their responsibilities as members of the association.

Communication Problems

In addressing the communication problems within the organizations as well as the roles and responsibilities of the members of each association, both governing bodies of the NAIA and NCAA have to ensure that their members are able to access the manual and conduct seminars or workshops to enlighten them on their choice of joining the organization. The governing bodies of the associations are responsible for good communication and ensuring that every member knows their roles and responsibilities (Slack & Parent, 2006).


The organization structures of NAIA and NCAA differ; however, both organizations aim at improving talents of athletes in various sports. Both associations have different member institutions within the United States and Canada. Constant amendments of the rules and regulations of the associations seek to improve the experience of their members. The main objectives of these associations are all based on academic progress of students. Students' ethical principles and morals are a standard for determining their eligibility for participating in the associations' championships. A breach of the set rules and regulations can lead to disqualification or termination of membership.

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  1. Fiore, D. (2009). Introduction to educational administration: Standards, theories, and practice. New York: Eye on Education.

  2. NAIA. (2013). The NAIA official & policy handbook. Kansas City: The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

  3. NCAA Academic and Membership Staff. (2013). Organization. The National Collegiate Association Manual, 17- 21.

  4. NCAA. (2014). NCAA official manual. Indianapolis, Indiana: SO&SO Co., LLC.

  5. Parent, M., & Smith-Swan, S. (2013). Managing major sports events: Theory and practice. New York: Routledge.

  6. Pedersen, M. (2011). Contemporary sport management. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

  7. Slack, T., & Parent, M. (2006). Understanding sport organizations: The application of organization theory. New York: Human Kinetics Pub.