After graduating from high school, one of the biggest challenges facing aspiring athletes is finding an athletic program that fits their needs and doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg to attend.

Fortunately, they are some NAIA schools in Ohio that are both affordable and competitive, making it easy to find the right fit.

Whether you want to play:

  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Track
  • Tennis, etc.

There’s no shortage of options here in Ohio, you can also check out this list of 260 Best NAIA Schools For Student Athletes.

What are NAIA Schools?

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a division of college athletics governing bodies whose purpose is to regulate, supervise, and develop intercollegiate athletics at colleges and universities throughout North America.

Unlike the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) schools which are required to provide athletics scholarships, NAIA schools may provide athletic aid based on competitive ability and need.

Some need-based athletic aid is often provided by Division II schools as well.

What are the Best NAIA Schools in Ohio?

Below is a list of some of the exciting athletic colleges in Ohio that are a part of the NAIA;

  • Cedarville University
  • Canton’s Malone University
  • Cincinnati Christian University
  • Lourdes University
  • Mount Vernon Nazarene University
  • Ohio Christian University
  • Shawnee State University
  • Wilberforce University
  • University of Northwestern Ohio
  • University of Rio Grande

Cedarville University

Cedarville University is a Christian college and all students are required to attend Christian services in their spare time.

This institution is also one of the athletic schools in Ohio that is a member of the NAIA offering the following athletic teams:

  • Men’s and women’s cross country
  • Men’s Golf
  • Men’s and women’s soccer
  • Men’s and women’s tennis
  • Women’s Volleyball
  • Men’s and women’s basketball
  • Men’s and women’s track and field, baseball, and softball.
See more:  10 Best Cosmetology Schools In Birmingham Alabama

Non-Christian students are required to take religious education classes while they’re at Cedarville.

It may discourage some potential students from looking into Cedarville University because it is an institution that prioritizes faith above everything else.

But it is a great environment for athletes who want a school with a healthy blend of academics and athletics.

Visit School

Canton’s Malone University

Canton’s Malone University is a private, Christian liberal arts college located right outside of Canton, Ohio.

Malone boasts more than 5,000 students enrolled at all levels including graduate and undergraduate programs.

The school’s athletic program is one of its strongest attributes and has been recognized multiple times as one of NAIA’s best athletic schools in Ohio.

Despite being a small school located near Columbus, Malone is frequently ranked among some of college football’s top programs thanks to a strong team spirit and exciting game-day atmosphere.

If you’re looking for an exceptional education that comes with access to nationally recognized sports teams, Malone University may be worth considering.

Visit School

Cincinnati Christian University

The Cincinnati Christian University is one of the top Christian universities in Ohio and its athletic team is called the Eagles.

It is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competed in the River States Conference (RSC) from 2008–09 to the fall semester of the 2019–20 school year.

There are 18 varsity sports at Cincinnati Christian, this includes:

  • Baseball, football, and basketball
  • Cheerleading
  • Cross country
  • Golf and Soccer
  • Track & field
  • Volleyball, and video games.

Visit School

Lourdes University

Lourdes University is one of the schools in Ohio with top athletic teams that are members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Lourdes University is located in Sylvania, Ohio, and primarily competes in the Wolverine–Hoosier Athletic Conference.

Lourdes has about 25 varsity sports in which students may compete, including:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Bowling
  • Cross country
  • Golf, etc.

Additionally, there are also co-ed sports, including competitive cheerleading, competitive dance, and competitive video gaming.

Visit School

Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) is a Christian university in Mount Vernon, and also one of the best NAIA schools in Ohio.

See more:  10 Best Football Colleges In Texas - Detailed Guide

They were founded in 1968 by the Church of the Nazarene and offer degrees for both traditional and non-traditional students.

Mount Vernon Nazarene’s athletic teams are the Cougars. The Cougars formerly competed in the former American Mideast Conference from 1975-76 to 2010-11.

Men and Women’s include baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

Visit School

Ohio Christian University

The Ohio Christian University is one of the NAIA universities in Ohio, and they compete primarily in the River States Conference at the Division I level since the 2015-16 academic year.

They are also a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association, and they mainly compete as an independent in the Midwest Region.

Ohio Christian offers 19 varsity sports and each of the following is represented:

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Soccer
  • Tennis, and track and field (indoor and outdoor).

With a myriad of sports to choose from, men and women have a range of recreational opportunities; both genders can compete in disc golf and eSports.

Visit School

Shawnee State University

The Shawnee State Bears are the official sports team for Shawnee State University.

They compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA Division I in basketball) and have won 25 National Championships.

Shawnee State University (commonly called SSU) was a member of the American Mideast Conference (AMC) from 1991 until 2010 and is the first school to win 17 conference championships.

It announced its intentions to leave the AMC at the conclusion of the 2009-10 academic year, and in November 2009, SSU announced that it would join the Mid-South Conference (MSC) in the Fall of 2010.

Visit School

Wilberforce University

In the sports world, Wilberforce University teams are known as the Bulldogs.

In recent years, the school has begun competing with colleges nationwide and it became one of the Ohio NAIA schools in 2012.

The Bulldogs have historically competed in the American Mideast Conference since 1999.

See more:  The 12 Best Engineering Schools in the Midwest | Latest Rankings

Wilberforce has 11 varsity sports available:

  • Men’s sports include basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf, and track and field (indoor and outdoor)

Visit School


While each college and university has its own athletic program, most colleges are either part of an athletic conference or compete as an independent.

So if you’re an aspiring athlete seeking to compete at a collegiate level, it might be a good idea to choose from any of these Ohio Schools listed here.

We hope this article solved your immediate needs!

Is NAIA better than D3?

Compared to D3, the well-funded NAIA teams are much better. Unlike D3, the NAIA can offer up to 24 scholarships to any student who meets their academic standards. Furthermore, lower academic standards for athletes in NAIA programs have led to a major influx of Division 1 athletes.

Can NAIA give full-ride scholarships?

Few NAIA schools offer full scholarships to athletes, but they do give out partial scholarships much more often. To be eligible for these funds and to play on a team, you must enroll in at least 12 credit hours.

What state has the most NAIA schools?

Of the 29 conferences in the NAIA, 13 of them have 50-50 schools. The Crossroads League has 7 teams, the Great Plains Athletic Conference has 4 schools, and the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference has 4 schools. Among the largest 50-50 NAIA schools, Indiana has the most, then California, Indiana, and Iowa.

Other Articles

To read more articles about athletic schools, visit our ATHLETIC SCHOOLS category, but if you are just interested in NAIA member schools, visit our NAIA Colleges category.

If you are a school or organization and want to partner with us, simply contact us.

Agbai Obasi
Agbai Obasi

Agbai Obasi is the founder of and related brands; he is currently a master-level student of Information Security Systems Management, managing the security operations of this site; in his spare time, he creates tailored blog contents that speak directly to the needs and interests of students. Visit his website below to stay updated with cybersecurity industry insights, best practices, and more.

Articles: 294

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *