Middle Georgia State College will join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics this fall.
The NAIA formally extended the invitation Monday, April 14, during its annual convention of member schools. It's a major step for Middle Georgia State, a bachelor's degree-granting institution moving toward university status.
"We are extremely grateful to the NAIA for the thorough examination that their organization provided of our Knights athletic programs," said Dr. Christopher Blake, Middle Georgia State's president. "A team visited our campuses, talked to our staff, studied our plans for athletics now -- as well as after we transition to university status -- and concluded that Middle Georgia State has the leadership and resources that are deserving of an invitation to join the NAIA, which we will be pleased to do this fall. I also want to express my very sincere best wishes to the NJCAA, with which our college was affiliated for many, many years. It’s a wonderful organization staffed by professional and caring staff, and it served us very well. We wish the NJCAA every success in its future."
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. According to the association's website, the NAIA encompasses 60,000 student-athletes, 13 sports, 23 national championships, nearly 300 colleges, universities and conferences and $450 million in athletic scholarships.
Knights athletics teams hope to compete in the NAIA's Southern States Athletic Conference. A final decision on which NAIA conference Middle Georgia State will join will come in early June. Middle Georgia State received positive feedback in March after representatives of NAIA and the SSAC made formal site visits as part of the application process.
Middle Georgia State College was created in January 2013 by the merger of the former Middle Georgia College and Macon State College. Voting online, students from both former institutions chose Knights as the new mascot and purple, black and silver/gray as the new school colors. For the Knights’ inaugural year of competition, Middle Georgia State remained with the National Junior College Athletic Association membership it inherited from the former Middle Georgia College. But college officials immediately began making plans to seek admission into an athletic conference more suitable to four-year colleges and to universities. Among other things, NAIA membership would help Middle Georgia State enhance its student-athlete scholarship budget.
"Middle Georgia State College has just made history by moving from junior-college athletics to begin four-year competition," said Charles Mullis, athletics director. "It allows our athletes to remain with us their whole collegiate career. I am super excited about the opportunities for them and for the college."
As the Warriors, Middle Georgia College had a rich athletics tradition. The two-year college was an NJCAA member for decades with many accomplishments to show for it.
The baseball squads won four national championships and Major League teams drafted at least 125 Middle Georgia College players. The softball team has one region and one conference title and went to the national championship one year. Women's basketball has at least two conference, one region and one district championship. Men's basketball won at least 10 conference and three region championships and had three national tournament appearances. Soccer and tennis teams also have
seen their share of success.
"The former Warriors will be forever a cherished foundation of our success," Blake said. "We can look back in history to an extraordinary legacy as Warriors and a courageous, strengthened athletic future as Knights."
Knights athletics will be centered on the Cochran Campus, illustrating Middle Georgia State's commitment to further enhancing a four-year student experience and revitalizing the college's presence in the area. Blake said NAIA membership will enable Middle Georgia State to consider athletics possibilities for the Macon Campus as well. Blake plans to initiate an athletics strategic plan as part of the college's push toward university status.
More information about the NAIA is here: http://www.naia.org/.