American Football Database
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association
DivisionDivision III
Sports fielded18 (men's: 9; women's: 9)
RegionMidwestern United States
HeadquartersRoyal Oak, Michigan
CommissionerDavid L. Neilson (since 2002)

The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) is an athletic conference that competes in the NCAA's Division III. The nine teams in the conference are all located in the states of Michigan and Indiana. The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association was established on March 24, 1888, making it the oldest college athletic conference in the United States. The current members of the MIAA include Adrian College, Albion College, Alma College, Calvin College, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Olivet College, Saint Mary's College of Notre Dame, Indiana, and Trine University, formerly known as Tri-State University. Olivet and Albion are the only charter members remaining in the conference. Former members include such colleges as Michigan State University, previously Michigan Agricultural College, (1888–1907), Eastern Michigan University, previously Michigan State Normal College, (1892–1926), Hillsdale College (1888–1961), and Defiance College (1997–2000).

The members of the MIAA remained the same from 1961 until 1997 when Defiance College of Ohio and Saint Mary's College of Indiana were invited to join, the first time colleges from outside of Michigan were admitted to the conference. Adrian, Albion, Alma, Calvin, Hope, Kalamazoo, Olivet and Saint Mary's have not been members of any other conference. In 2002, the league accepted Wisconsin Lutheran College as an associate member for the purpose of competing only in football. Wisconsin Lutheran College left the MIAA for another conference in 2007. The newest member of the MIAA was accepted in the 2004–05 season, Tri-State University. Tri-State University changed their name to Trine University in 2008.


The conference was established on March 24, 1888. Being the oldest conference in America, the conference has made some drastic changes involving the types of sports that the conference competes in. The number of sports with competition is 18 (9 men and 9 women sports). These sports include cross country, football, golf, basketball, tennis, swimming, baseball, volleyball, softball track and field and soccer. Some past sports that are no longer in competition include bicycle racing, Indian club juggling, wrestling, archery, and field hockey.

The “Father of the MIAA,” was James Heckman of Hillsdale. Heckman promoted the idea of a permanent league after several schools had sponsored successful track and field days from 1884 to 1887. The first delegates met in Jackson on March 17, 1888 to organize the MIAA. A week after the meeting delegates from Albion, Hillsdale, Michigan State and Olivet drew up the MIAA’s first constitution.

The schools that were to be a part of the MIAA in 1888 had diverse enrollment numbers. The largest enrollment belonged to Eastern with 714. Albion was listed as 451, Hillsdale 450, Michigan State 314, Olivet 277, Adrian 150, Hope 148, Kalamazoo 143 and Alma with 95 students ( accessed 10/15/08). Some of the enrollment figures included many students taking work on a high school level. This meant that athletic teams of those years included both high school and college students. A five or six year career of athletic participation was not unusual at that time ( accessed 10/15/08).

On May 31, June 1–2, 1888 the first MIAA track and field meet was held at East Lansing, not even three months after the original meeting. The events that were held included the 100- yard dash, 200-yard dash, 880- yard run, high jump, long jump, shot put, hammer throw and mile relay. Some other events that would not normally be at a track and field meet today, were lawn tennis, wrestling, Indian club swing, horizontal and parallel bar performing, bicycle racing, sparring, and tug-of-war. The teams that competed in this event were Hillsdale, Albion, Michigan State, and Olivet. Hillsdale was the first MIAA track champion.

The following year in 1889, the second annual MIAA Field Day was done. At this Field Day Albion and Olivet participated in an exhibition “football match.” It was not until 1891 when the first official intercollegiate football game in the MIAA was played with Albion defeating Hillsdale 36-4. Football was not recognized until 1894 as an official league sport ( accessed 10/15/08).

The following sports came into effect as follows: Baseball, the 440-yard dash, mile run, high hurdles and pole vault in 1889. Football was recognized as an official league sport in 1894. The two mile run and discus in 1912 and the javelin replaced the hammer throw in 1913. Basketball became a league sport in 1911. Cross country was introduced in 1922 while golf was in 1934. Wrestling was introduced in 1969, but then was dropped in 1981. Soccer in 1970 and swimming in 1971 ( accessed 10/15/08).

Contrary to what many would think that sports for women only started in 1978-79 there is evidence that it started much earlier than that. The first Albion college tennis tournament held six years after the league was formed was actually a co-ed event ( accessed 10/15/08). In 1936, Albion invited all of the MIAA schools to a play day and convention which was the first attempt to organize a women’s athletic program for the MIAA. 100 women from all of the colleges in the MIAA participated in events such as archery, tennis, volleyball, basketball, badminton, softball, and swimming ( accessed 10/15/08). In 1941 the Athletic Federation of Michigan College Women (AFMCW) was established. It later became known as the Women’s Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WMIAA) in 1946.

In 1977 league presidents voted to allow post-season participation by member schools if they were so invited by the NCAA Division III Football Committee (Harburn 4). This ended a seventeen year ban on post-season competition. Albion’s 1977 team was the first team chosen to participate. Many teams during the ban did not have the chance to show off their skills as some teams were even ranked in the Top Ten nationally, because of the NCAA rule prohibiting more than two teams from the same region being selected (Harburn 4). Hillsdale College left the conference in 1960 because they accepted a bid to a postseason football bowl game and were subsequently suspended two years by the conference.[1][2][3][4]

In 1978-79, the league combined into a single structure the administration of the men’s and women’s athletic programs of the member schools. This meant that women sports would be included.

Winning streaks and distinguished coaches

The MIAA has had its share of many winning seasons, but there are some that may stick out more than others. For example Kalamazoo College men’s tennis has been a part of one that cannot be matched by any other college or university in America. They have won or shared every MIAA Finals championship since 1936, which is 72 consecutive titles ( accessed 5/2/10). The only times they had to share the title was with Hope College in 1962 and 2003. Some other notable championship streaks include Calvin’s men cross country 21 years in a row; Calvin’s women track & field 17 years in a row ( accessed 10/15/08).

Since 1990, MIAA member colleges have won 18 National Division III championships. The first MIAA national championship was won by Kalamazoo in 1976 when it won the men’s tennis championship (Renner 19). The Kalamazoo College hornets would later win back-to-back championships in 1986 and 1987 (Renner 19) and again in 1991, 1992, and 1993. NCAA Division III history was made in 1991-92 when the MIAA claimed two national championships in basketball with Calvin winning the men’s title and Alma with the women’s ( accessed 10/15/08). The league has had 82 individual NCAA national championship performances since 1978 ( accessed 10/15/08).

The league has had many coaches throughout its history. There are always some coaches that stand out from the rest. One coach that stands out from the rest is George Acker of Kalamazoo College. Acker was a Phys. Ed Professor and men’s tennis coach for 35 years. His impressive resume includes coaching 7 NCAA Division III Championships and 35 MIAA Championships. An impressive 209-1 MIAA career dual-meet record and an overall 537-231 record ( accessed 10/15/08). Acker was the winningest coach in the MIAA. He is followed by John Patnott of Hope College, Tish Loveless (Kalamazoo College), Chester Barnard (Kalamazoo College), and Bob Kent also from Kalamazoo College ( accessed 10/15/08).

Another such coach was Jare T. Klein of Olivet. As coach of the famed Olivet College Wrestling program, Olivet teams won 10 League Championships (including 9 straight) in 15 Seasons. His team's overall dual meet record during his 29 year coaching tenure was 569 - 119. It appears that Klein may have been a victim to his own success as the MIAA dropped wrestling as a league sport in 1984.


Of course a league will have many rivalries and the MIAA is no different. In a recent interview Jamie Zorbo, head football coach for Kalamazoo College, talked about the tradition of the MIAA and the rivalries. “It is a competitive league; all the teams that are competing have been for a long time and have a lot of history to play for.” “Great rivalries are made including Kalamazoo vs. Hope; Albion vs. Kalamazoo and the Calvin vs. Hope rivalry in basketball. These are just a few of them.” (Zorbo, Jamie. Personal Interview 15 October 2008).

The Calvin vs. Hope rivalry has actually made national news. ESPN recently identified the nation’s greatest college basketball rivalries. Calvin–Hope rivalry tops the Division III and is ranked fourth in all college hoops. ESPN covered this game in 2005 and a “fan poll” was conducted after the game where 80% of the voters voted for Calvin-Hope as number one. It was also covered in July 2007 in an ESPN series ( accessed 15 October 2008).

Member schools

Current members

The league currently has 9 full members:

Institution Location Nickname Founded Type Enrollment Joined
Adrian College Adrian, Michigan Bulldogs 1859 Private/Methodist 1,040 19082
Albion College Albion, Michigan Britons 1835 Private/Methodist 1,970 1888
Alma College Alma, Michigan Scots 1886 Private/Presbyterian 1,300 1902
Calvin College Grand Rapids, Michigan Knights 1876 Private/Christian Reformed 4,200 1953
Hope College Holland, Michigan Flying Dutchmen 1866 Private/Reformed 3,200 1926
Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo, Michigan Hornets 1833 Private/Non-sectarian 1,340 1896
Olivet College Olivet, Michigan Comets 1844 Private/United Church of Christ 1,086 18883
Saint Mary's College1 Notre Dame, Indiana Belles 1844 Private/Catholic 1,400 1997
Trine University Angola, Indiana Thunder 1884 Private/Non-sectarian 1,650 2004
  1. Women's college
  2. Adrian left the MIAA after the 1921-22 season; but re-joined in the 1937-38 season.
  3. Olivet left the MIAA after the 1939-40 season; but re-joined in the 1952-53 season.

Former members

Institution Location Nickname Membership Type Founded Type Enrollment Joined Left Current Conference
Defiance College Defiance, Ohio Yellow Jackets Full Member 1850 Private/United Church of Christ 1,000 1997 2000 HCAC
Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, Michigan Eagles Full Member 1849 Public 22,974 1892 1926 MAC
(NCAA Division I)
Hillsdale College Hillsdale, Michigan Chargers Charter Member 1844 Private/Non-sectarian 1,200 1888 1961 GLIAC
(NCAA Division II)
Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan Spartans Charter Member 1855 Public 45,520 1888 1907 Big Ten
(NCAA Division I)
Wisconsin Lutheran College Milwaukee, Wisconsin Warriors Associate Member
1973 Private/Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod 765 2002 2007 Northern (NAC)

Membership timeline

Trine UniversityWisconsin Lutheran CollegeSaint Mary's College (Indiana)Defiance CollegeCalvin CollegeHope CollegeAdrian CollegeAlma CollegeKalamazoo CollegeEastern Michigan UniversityMichigan State UniversityOlivet CollegeHillsdale CollegeAlbion College


Member teams compete in cross country, football, golf, soccer, volleyball, basketball, swimming, baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse, and track and field. As a women's school, Saint Mary's does not participate in football or baseball.


  1. "Hillsdale College Quits MIAA" (in English). The Owosso Argus-Press. December 15, 1960. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  2. "Tiny Hillsdale Pays Price Of Success" (in English). Lansing, Michigan: Dayton Beach Morning Journal. December 8, 1960. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  3. "Hillsdale Makes Known Desire To Quit League" (in English). Hillsdale, Michigan: The Milwaukee Sentinel. November 22, 1960. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  4. "Hillsdale's Bowl Play May Stir MIAA Row" (in English). Hillsdale, Michigan: The Owosso Argus-Press. November 14, 1960. Retrieved 22 April 2012.

External links

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