Q: Why not stick with the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) for both campuses?

A: The simple answer is the geography and size of our program. There are not enough NCCAA institutions near our Knoxville campus who compete in all the sports we offer and plan to offer in the future. Four of our current nine sports do not have a conference with an NCCAA Division II opponent, and the sports we’re considering for the future would also not have NCCAA division opponents to compete against. Moving to the NAIA will allow our student-athletes to compete while traveling less and missing fewer classes.

Random fact: There are eight institutions in the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) that are a shorter driving distance from our Tennessee campus than our closest opponent in the NCCAA Mideast region.

Q: Why the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and not NCAA Division III?

A: Sixty-five percent of NAIA institutions are faith-based institutions. If we moved to NCAA Division III, we would have fewer regional partners in Christian higher education. NAIA and the AAC offer us partnerships with like-minded institutions who approach higher education in a similar way, while also giving us the benefits of a larger athletic division and the leadership of a conference.

Random fact: Johnson will be one of four Restoration Movement institutions in the AAC, joining Milligan University, Point University, and Kentucky Christian University in the conference. Lincoln Christian University and William Jessup University are also members of the NAIA.

Q: Does this mean scholarships are part of what we do?

A: Yes, we will offer athletic scholarships, but not in the way people often think about scholarships. The NAIA measures all institutional aid given to student-athletes, including academic, program, merit-based, and need-based aid. The NAIA model does not simply award athletic aid. Our athletes will qualify for institutional aid just like all other Johnson students, and we will use existing institutional aid and direct it toward athletics. We will also be encouraging the establishment of permanent scholarship funds for athletics to expand our capacity for institutional aid. Aid for student-athletes will be for tuition only and does require our athletes to meet specific academic standards.

Random fact: The average discount given to athletes in 2019-2020 was 27%. The average discount moving forward for athletics will be 23%.

Q: What else was a big factor in making this decision?

A: NAIA’s Champions of Character program sold us on the move. Institutions are measured through the Champions of Character scorecard and are recognized for demonstrating character development by earning points in character training, academic focus, character recognition, character promotion, and conduct in competition. This program aligns perfectly with our values and our belief that athletics is more about human development than a game that is won or lost.

Random fact: Seven athletic departments in the AAC scored a perfect 100% on the Champions of Character scorecard. Johnson has set a goal to score 100% by the end of the 2022-23 season.