While many student-athletes and their families have heard of playing college sports at the NCAA level, they’re often surprised that another regulatory body exists—the NAIA. The National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics is actually the oldest college athletics governing body in the U.S. More than 250 schools are part of the NAIA; these are comprised of mostly smaller private colleges. However, despite being lesser known than its NCAA counterpart, more than 60,000 athletes compete at NAIA schools in a number of sports, including men’s track and field.
Student-athletes who compete at an NAIA member institution are in good company: NAIA track and field programs are similar to those at the NCAA D3 level in terms of a student-athlete’s overall experience, while top NAIA track and field colleges have been compared athletically to the NCAA D2 level! Unlike their D3 counterparts, NAIA programs award both athletic and academic scholarships, making NAIA schools a cost-effective option for student-athletes who excel in their sport and in the classroom.
Just how much athletic aid do NAIA programs offer? Each year more than $500 million in athletic scholarships is awarded to student-athletes who compete at the NAIA level. There are typically 12 track and field scholarships offered per team. Like track and field scholarships offered at the NCAA level, these scholarships are not guaranteed for all four years and need to be renewed at the college coach’s discretion based on a qualified athlete’s performance and academic standing.
Student-athletes who are interested in competing at a high level shouldn’t limit their college lists to those at the NCAA level. Instead, they should also start to consider NAIA track and field colleges, too. One of the best parts of the NAIA recruiting process is that college coaches do not have to follow the NCAA rules, making themselves much more accessible to student-athletes at any stage in the recruiting process. NAIA coaches aren’t restricted in when they can and cannot communicate with potential recruits, so student-athletes can initiate contact with an NAIA coach at any time in the recruiting process. How many track and field colleges are there?
There are nearly 200 NAIA track and field colleges across the U.S. Of those, 149 schools offer men’s indoor track and field programs, while 186 schools offer either an outdoor track and field program or both indoor and outdoor programs. Indoor track programs often compete in the winter season, while outdoor track and field programs are in full swing during the spring.
Several organizations offer NAIA track and field rankings throughout both indoor and outdoor seasons, including the NAIA, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, and the Track & Field Results Reporting System. Here are the top NAIA colleges for track and field according to the NCSA Power Rankings, which factor in graduate rates, average cost after aid and other important data, aside from athletic rankings, that help student-athletes make their best college decision:
Check out NCSA’s Power Rankings of top NAIA track and field colleges.
Find the complete NAIA track and field rankings here.