Thomas More University is officially back in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, NAIA. The school made the jump to the Mid-South Conference from NCAA Division III Monday.
The school received the invitation to rejoin the NAIA last year and accepted. Thomas More was previously part of the association from 1947 to 1990 when it moved to the NCAA.
Thomas More President Joseph L. Chillo calls the move a logical step because it will help Thomas More create its university brand. Thomas More switched from being a college to a university in October 2018.
Chillo says another factor is being in the NAIA allows the school to provide its student athletes with scholarships.
"What it also does is reduces the amount of travel time that our student athletes experience," Chillo said June 26 on WVXU's Cincinnati Edition. "If we continued with NCAA and Division III and conference affiliations we were in, it (would) require our student athletes to be out of class more than what the NAIA was offering. So, from an academic standpoint going to the NAIA makes the perfect logical sense and certainly brings us to the next level now to compete at."
"As an athletic department, we are excited to formally begin our membership in the NAIA and the Mid-South Conference today," says Director of Athletics Terry Connor in a statement. "We look forward to creating great rivalries with institutions that share the same philosophies academically and athletically as Thomas More."
When the decision was announced last year, the acting head of the university said it was driven by the NAIA's focus on academics.
"Academically the NAIA is known for its Play NAIA eligibility center," the university writes. "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."
Other schools in the Mid-South Conference include: Campbellsville University, Cumberland University, Georgetown College, Life University, Lindsey Wilson College, Shawnee State University, University of Pikeville, and University of the Cumberlands.