About Us

Conference History


Founded in 1971, the Heart of America Athletic Conference marks its 45th year during the 2015-16 season. All 12 conference schools are members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The only sport that utilizes divisions in the NAIA is basketball, and the Heart will be competing in its 8th season at the Division I level during the 2014-15 school year.

Three schools have been members of the conference since its inception - Baker University, Graceland University and Missouri Valley College.

In 1971, College of Emporia (Kan.), Ottawa (Kan.) University, Tarkio (Mo.) College and William Jewell College were members, but they have since withdrawn from the conference. College of Emporia closed in 1974. Ottawa joined the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) in 1982, Tarkio closed in the spring of 1991 and William Jewell left at the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year to join the ranks of NCAA Div. II. Central Methodist University, also an original member in 1971, withdrew from the conference in 1986, but was reinstated as a member in 1991.

Culver-Stockton College and MidAmerica Nazarene University became members in 1980. Evangel University joined in 1987 while Benedictine joined in 1991 when Central Methodist was reinstated. Lindenwood University began competing in the conference in 1996 but concluded their affiliation at the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year as they began their transition to NCAA Div. II status. Avila University began competing in all sports but football during the 2000-01 season and fielded its first football team ever in 2001. Peru State College became the newest school to join the storied conference as they began full competition during the 2011-12 academic year.

The conference has continued to expand with the total number of teams set to be at 14 when competition begins for the 2016-17 school year. The 2015-16 season has seen Grand View University and William Penn begin full membership in the Heart, while Clarke University and Mount Mercy University will join in the competition for the 2016-17 seasons.

The commissioner of the conference is Lori Thomas, who was named commissioner prior to the 2014-15 school year, and is the first female commissioner in the history of the NAIA. The Director of Communications is Eric Montgomery, who is in his fifth season with the conference.

Past and Present Members

School - Location - Membership - Years

Avila University - Kansas City, MO - 2000-current - 15

Baker University - Baldwin City, KS - 1971-current - 44

Benedictine College - Atchison, KS - 1991-current - 24

Central Methodist University - Fayette, MO - 1971-86, 91-current - 39

Culver-Stockton College - Canton, MO - 1980- current - 35

Evangel University - Springfield, MO - 1987-current - 28

Graceland University - Lamoni, IA - 1971-current - 44

Grand View University - Des Moines, Iowa - 2015-current - 1st

MidAmerica Nazarene University - Olathe, KS - 1980-current - 35

Missouri Valley College - Marshall, MO - 1971-current - 44

Peru State College - Peru, NE - 2011-current - 4

William Penn University - Oskaloosa, Iowa - 2015-current - 1st

Clarke University - Dubuque, Iowa - Begins competition in 2016-17

Mount Mercy University - Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Begins competition in 2016-17

Lindenwood University - St. Charles, MO - 1996-2011 (withdrew) - 12

 William Jewell College - Liberty, MO - 1971-2011 (withdrew) - 38

College of Emporia - Emporia, KS - 1971-74 (closed) - 4

Ottawa University - Ottawa, KS - 1971-82 (withdrew) - 12

Tarkio College - Tarkio, MO - 1971-91 (closed) - 21