Mesa, Arizona ~ After serving a year as an associate member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Benedictine University at Mesa was accepted as an active member during the organization’s national convention this week.
By becoming an active member of the NAIA, BenU at Mesa athletic programs will be eligible for postseason play at the conference and national levels beginning with the 2016-17 athletic season.
“I am excited and grateful that Benedictine University at Mesa has been accepted into the NAIA as an active member,” said Steve Schafer, director of athletics. “This is a direct result of all the hard work our staff, faculty and students have done throughout this past year to make Benedictine University at Mesa a campus of excellence in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the community.”
Receiving active membership is the culmination of a review process for the University’s athletic programs that began nearly a year and a half ago when BenU at Mesa first applied to be an NAIA member for the 2015-16 year.
Active membership in the NAIA is open to four-year colleges and universities and upper-level, two-year institutions in the United States and Canada that award bachelor's degrees or their equivalent. Institutions in the United States must be fully accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies. Associate membership is accorded to institutions that meet the criteria but are classified as developing athletic programs.
BenU at Mesa was deemed to have a developing athletic department and was named an associate member for 2015-16. Its athletic programs were allowed to compete at the NAIA level, but were unable to participate in postseason play.
The University reapplied for full membership for the 2016-17 season and submitted materials to the NAIA office for review in early January, including staff levels, sports rosters and facilities. The NAIA’s membership committee voted unanimously to grant BenU at Mesa full membership.
“When we developed our athletic department, our goal was to create the best possible experience we could for our student-athletes,” Schafer said. “Gaining acceptance into the NAIA certainly helps us reach that goal.”
BenU at Mesa currently offers eight intercollegiate sports -- men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s basketball and softball -- and will offer four more sports beginning the fall of 2016 – baseball, women’s basketball and men’s and women’s soccer.
Baseball and women’s basketball will play at the NAIA level next season, while the men’s and women’s soccer teams will play a year at the club level before transitioning into NAIA-sanctioned sports in the fall of 2017. Men’s and women’s tennis, which were NAIA-level sports in 2015-16, will transition to club status in 2016-17.
BenU at Mesa athletic teams that competed on the NAIA level had successful seasons in 2015-16. The women’s volleyball team finished 17-7, and the men’s basketball and men’s volleyball teams finished at or near .500.
###Benedictine University at Mesa is a branch campus of Benedictine University, an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine is ranked No. 2 among the country’s fastest-growing campuses between 2003-2013 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the fifth consecutive year in 2015.