Newman Athletics began its search for a new home in 2017
Newman had its athletic eye on the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) for many reasons; two of them being the convenience of closer competition locations and the fact that Newman wrestlers have been competing in the MIAA since 2013.
An announcement was made in February 2018 that Newman University was invited to participate as an associate member of the MIAA beginning in the 2019-20 academic year.
The MIAA is a 14-school, NCAA Division II athletic conference featuring public and private institutions in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Newman is the sole private University.
Newman currently fields 18 teams — 14 of which are MIAA teams.
The MIAA teams sponsored at Newman are basketball (men and women), soccer (women), golf (men and women), tennis (men and women), cross- country (men and women), wrestling, volleyball, softball and baseball.
Men’s soccer is competing in the Great American Conference with three other MIAA schools.
Bowling (men and women), triathlon (men and women) and cheer and dance are the current club sports within Newman athletics.
Newman University relied on some heavy research, gathering information about the MIAA, looking at other MIAA schools’ policies, scholarship procedures, facilities and staff hierarchy.
A committee was formed and visits to other campuses and games began a year in advance to start the process of learning how to make a smooth transition. The task force consisted of faculty, coaches and staff.
Director of Athletics Joanna Pryor said the MIAA was a good fit for Newman.
“It is the natural choice due to our location and the fact that we are Division II. Being a part of the MIAA allows us to create natural rivalries and allows a better student-athlete experience.”
In addition to the visits Newman made to other MIAA schools, the athletic department hosted a visit of their own as MIAA representatives traveled to the Newman campus.
The visit was a chance for the athletic department to hear recommendations on preparing to become members of the association.
Preparing for a new conference means preparing for a different level of competition. Coaches looked at new ways to train and engage with their teams while learning about the teams their players will compete with in the coming years.
Much of the learning will happen during the first year as the season progresses.
Pryor said there will be a different, larger fan base at games because the competition is so much closer to Newman.
“Closer rivalry schools means a larger crowd. We are talking about that and how we can be ready. Our main focus is engagement with our own students, engaging our fan base and being ready for the bigger crowds.”
While staff and coaches were preparing for the possible move into a new conference, something very specific had to happen within the MIAA for Newman to be invited.
The MIAA had never invited a university without a football program into the conference and Newman would be the rst in its history.
Associate members do not have to have a football program as of now, but it’s still a rule that full members must have the program. MIAA o cials will still need to vote on whether schools without football programs can become full members.
Waiting to hear if Newman would be invited as an associate member was nailbiting to say the least since it was well-known throughout the university that they would need a new conference home.
“The wait was grueling,” said Pryor. “We were very uncertain of where we would land, but the MIAA CEO council was very compassionate about our situation and informed in a timely manner.”
THE NEW COMPETITION
Moving into a new conference means brand new competition. Coaches and student-athletes are excited about the new challenges ahead. And because the MIAA includes state universities, the crowds and the games might look a little different.
“The game day experience for the student- athletes is going to be something they may not have experienced before,” explained Pryor. “Larger crowds, bigger facilities — but also closer competition. The student-athletes will feel a sense of relief from the long travel.”
The switch means new possibilities for Newman University. The athletes at Newman will gain new insights on their skills while learning to adjust to a different style of competition.
Pryor added, “The excitement is high. We are looking forward to our new season with some new teams. We’re ready and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish.”