Photo courtesy of Culver-Stockton College athletics
It is amazing to think that a year ago, the NAIA football season was still in full swing after COVID-19 pushed the season back from the fall to the spring. It may feel a little weird having a normal-esque offseason.
As we have said before, the NAIA is a revolving door and rapid change happens every offseason within this division. It could be coaches coming and going, or even programs themselves.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest headlines from NAIA football this offseason:
NAIA’s Andrew Rupcich Gets an Invite to the NFL Combine
This might beat any news about coaching changes or even program changes. Each time this happens for a NAIA product, it affects the culture of the division itself.
In 2022, the NFL leaves no rock left unturned and NAIA talent is getting more recognition than ever before. Culver-Stockton’s Andrew Rupcich has an opportunity to not only show his skills, but his performance can inspire NAIA products everywhere.
Rupcich was a three-time NAIA All-American and looks to hear his name come off the draft board in April. Watch the best play of his collegiate career in the tweet below:
— Andrew Rupcich (@rupcich_andrew) October 4, 2019
The Coaching Carousel Led by Oliver and Harrison
The NAIA is a revolving door, particularly with coaching. Due to pay, some coaches try to move up as fast as they can or maybe leave coaching altogether. This was a rare offseason where coaches near the top of their conferences are taking over teams that finished below them in the same conferences.
Chris Oliver leaves Lindsey Wilson where he has won multiple conference titles and the 2020 NAIA national championship. He is heading to NAIA blueblood Georgetown, who is not only in the same division, but the same state.
Meanwhile, Terry Harrison, who established a winning culture at Bethel University, is heading 33 miles away to Friends University.
Evangel Moving to the KCAC
This past season, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference had two schools earn bids to the NAIA Playoff. For a league that hasn’t had two divisions for two automatic bids, we may see multiple KCAC teams in the playoffs more often.
Evangel will become the 12th team in the league. This will allow the KCAC to separate into two different six-team divisions.
Lyon moves on to Division III
It makes sense geographically as Lyon is in Arkansas and pretty isolated from its Sooner Athletic Conference mates. Going from the NAIA to Division III however, is going to be a chore.
Whereas NAIA schools can offer athletic scholarships, NCAA Division III schools are not afforded that same luxury.