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Thomas More Athletics to Join NAIA

Thomas More College announced Tuesday that it is leaving NCAA Division III and joining the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The Saints will be a member of the Mid-South Conference starting July 1, 2019.

Thomas More was previously a member of the NAIA from 1947 to 1990.

It will remain a part of NCAA Division III through next season as an independent.

“In our conversations with representatives of the NAIA, their dedication to placing student development first was evident,” said acting Thomas More President Dr. Kathleen Jagger. “Their character focus is consistent with our institutional mission. We are delighted to have this opportunity to join a competitive conference, with common academic standards and geographic proximity that will minimize the travel time for our student-athletes.”

The NAIA has over 250 member institutions, which have an average full-time enrollment of 1,700 students. Thomas More officials cited the NAIA’s focus on character-driven athletics is exemplified in its Champions of Character program. Champions of Character provides training for student-athletes and professional development for coaches and staff. The values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership are put into play and accounted for at NAIA institutions. Part of the Champions of Character program is LIVE 5 Training for student-athletes, which focuses on modeling, leading and building values-based skills for life after college.

Academically the NAIA is known for its "Play NAIA" eligibility center. The Play NAIA program functions similarly to the NCAA Division I and II Clearinghouse. The NAIA evaluates students’ ACT/SAT scores, grade point averages, and class ranks in order to determine if student-athletes are eligible to compete in NAIA athletics.

Thomas More will also be joining the Mid-South, a NAIA conference with eight core member institutions in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Georgia. The member institutions are Campbellsville University, Cumberland University, Georgetown College, Life University, Lindsey Wilson College, Shawnee State University, University of Pikeville, and University of the Cumberlands. The Saints have old rivalries with a majority of the member institutions that date back to Thomas More’s former membership in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC). The Mid-South sponsors 27 varsity sports, but also offers junior varsity (JV) schedules, which enable a greater number of students to participate in intercollegiate athletics.

“The NAIA and the Mid-South offer great rivalries and competition with academically sound institutions,” said TMC Athletic Director Terry Connor. “Thomas More is excited to be going back home to the NAIA and the Mid-South Conference.”

“The Mid-South Conference is excited to welcome Thomas More College as our newest full-member institution,” said Mid-South Commissioner Eric Ward. “Thomas More is a great fit, academically and athletically, and its membership will only enhance the Mid-South's reputation and competitiveness.   We welcome Acting President Jagger, director of athletics Terry Connor and the coaches, staff and student-athletes at Thomas More to the Mid-South Conference and the NAIA.”

-Staff report