The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is one of the two biggest College football tournaments in the USA and is reckoned to lie just below the NCAA in terms of quality. Generally made up of smaller private educational institutions, the NAIA still features a very high standard of football, with plenty of its stars going on to NFL glory. Wherever you are in the USA, there should be NAIA football tickets available, so join the party and support your local team in their quest for the championship.
Background information about the NAIA
The NAIA was formed in 1952 as an expansion of the National Association for Intercollegiate Basketball. With colleges growing after World War Two and the GI Bill, there was an increased demand among smaller colleges to compete in nationwide competitions, so the NAIA came together and started its National Championship in 1956.
The finals themselves have gone under a variety of names, from the Aluminium Bowl (just once) to the Camellia Bowl, the Champion Bowl and the Palm Bowl. Over the years, a number of sides have risen to prominence. No college has dominated the NAIA, but Texas A&I won six titles between 1969 and 1979, Carson-Newman won five times in the 1980s and Carroll triumphed six times from 2002 to 2010. It's a competitive league, with strong sides ranging from Marian and Baker to Grand View, Southern Oregon and Saint Francis.
These institutions are far smaller than the major NCAA sides, but their games still generate plenty of buzz and excitement. For instance, if you are in Montana, make a date to watch a game at Nelson Stadium, where 7,000 fans create a huge amount of noise.
Great moments in NAIA football history
Since 1956, there have been plenty of unforgettable matches in the NAIA. 1957 started things off with a bang, when Pittsburg State beat Hillsdale 27-26. 1968 was another spectacular match, as Troy won 43-35 against Texas A&I, who were major favourites.
Tight matches have regularly decided the title since then. For instance, Livingston ground out a 14-12 win against Arkansas Tech to win their first title in 1971. The 1992 title was won 19-16 by Central Arkansas, while the very next year Central State OH beat Gardner-Webb by the same margin.
More recently, 2012 was a classic. The Marian Knights squared up to the slightly more fancied Morningside Mustangs, with both sides debuting in the Championship game. After a thrilling match, it took a field goal in overtime for the Knights to come out victorious. With teams tending to be evenly matched, expect more excitement when you book NAIA football tickets.