9 Best NAIA Schools in Tennessee For Athletes

There are about nine top NAIA schools in Tennessee to get into, so if you’re an athlete looking to attend one of these institutions, this article will help you make a more informed decision.

NAIA is the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, an organization that governs the college athletic operations of many smaller colleges in the United States and Canada.

There are more than 250 schools that are member institutions of the NAIA offering student-athletes the opportunity to play sports without sacrificing their academics.

So, if you’re looking for a smaller school with competitive sports teams, look no further than the NAIA colleges in Tennessee!

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Are NAIA schools good academically?

Many people think that schools affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) are not as good academically as other schools.

However, this is not always the case, in fact, many NAIA schools offer excellent academic programs while still maintaining the culture of sports.

Plus, tuition is generally lower than at NCAA Division I schools, making NAIA options great value for athletes who are thinking about playing professionally after graduation.

What are the advantages of attending the NAIA Colleges in Tennessee?

Aside from NAIA schools, there are different college sports divisions such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a smaller athletic association than the NCAA.

Because of this, the rules are less strict and the application process is more forgiving, and as a result, many small schools in rural areas are able to field successful athletic programs.

Another advantage of attending the NAIA schools include that you’ll be able to make friends with your teammates and stay involved in campus life on top of excelling in the classroom.

What are the Best NAIA Schools in Tennessee?

Tennessee is home to nine NAIA schools: Bethel University, Cumberland University, Bryan College, University of Tennessee Southern, Milligan University, Tennessee Wesleyan University, Fisk University, Freed-Hardeman University, and Johnson University.

Here is a review of some of the best NAIA colleges in Tennessee for you to make a more informed decision.

N/B: This is not arranged by any particular ranking order.

Best NAIA Universities in Tennessee Teams City Conference
Bethel University Bethel Wildcats McKenzie Mid-South
Cumberland University Cumberland Phoenix Lebanon Mid-South
Bryan College Bryan Lions Dayton Appalachian
University of Tennessee Southern UT Southern Firehawks Pulaski Mid-South
Milligan University Milligan Buffaloes Elizabethton Appalachian
Tennessee Wesleyan University Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs Athens Appalachian
Fisk University Fisk Bulldogs Nashville Gulf Coast
Freed-Hardemen University Freed-Hardeman Lions Henderson Mid-South
Johnson University Johnson Royals Kimberlin Heights Appalachian

Bethel University

Bethel University is a private Christian university that is located in McKenzie, Tennessee with campuses in Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Paris, and Clarksville.

Bethel University is also one of the NAIA schools in Tennessee that are religiously affiliated and are accredited to award degrees up to the master’s level.

Bethel University’s athletic team is called the Bethel Wildcats, they compete predominantly in the Mid-South Conference (MSC).

Bethel Wildcats competes in about 28 different intercollegiate varsity sports for both men and women which include;

Bethel University Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Bowling
  • Cross country
  • Football and soccer
  • Golf
  • Inline hockey
  • Swimming
  • Tennis, and
  • Track and field (indoor and outdoor).

And some co-ed sports include archery, bass fishing, cheerleading, eSports, and shooting sports.

Contact details:

Address: 325 Cherry Ave, McKenzie, TN 38201, United States.

Phone: +1 731-352-4000.

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Cumberland University

Founded in 1842, Cumberland University is a private university in Lebanon, Tennessee, about 30 minutes from Nashville.

Cumberland University is also one of the best NAIA universities in Tennessee and its athletic team is called the Cumberland Phoenix and competes predominantly in the Mid-South Conference.

Cumberland Phoenix competes in about 23 different intercollegiate varsity sports for both men and women which include;

Cumberland University Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Bowling
  • Cross country
  • Football and soccer
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Track & field
  • Volleyball and wrestling

Co-ed sports include cheerleading, dance, and eSports.

Contact details:

Address: 1 Cumberland Square, Lebanon, TN 37087, United States.

Phone: +1 615-444-2562.

Bryan College

Bryan College is a small private accredited liberal art Christian college that is located in Dayton, Tennessee.

Bryan College is also one of the top NAIA colleges in Tennessee, and its athletic team is called the Bryan Lions.

The Bryan Lions compete predominantly in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and represent the school in about 17 NAIA intercollegiate varsity sports competitions for both men and women;

Bryan College Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Soccer and track & field
  • Volleyball

And co-ed sports include cheerleading, fishing, martial arts, and shooting.

Contact details:

Address: 721 Bryan Dr, Dayton, TN 37321, United States.

Phone: +1 423-775-2041.

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University of Tennessee Southern

Founded in 1870, the University of Tennessee Southern is a public university located in Pulaski, Tennessee offering associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.

The University of Tennessee Southern also has athletic programs and is one of the top NAIA universities in Tennessee.

The school’s athletic team is called the UT Southern Firehawks and competes predominantly in the Mid-South Conference representing the school in 19 intercollegiate varsity sports for both men and women:

The University of Tennessee Southern Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Bowling
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Soccer
  • Swimming and tennis
  • Softball and Volleyball

Competitive cheerleading is offered as a co-ed sport.

Contact details:

Address: 433 W Madison St, Pulaski, TN 38478, United States.

Phone: +1 931-363-9804.

Milligan University

Founded in 1866, Milligan University is a private Christian university that is located in Milligan College, Tennessee.

This institution has an athletic program that is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and their athletic team is called Milligan Buffaloes.

Milligan Buffaloes competes predominantly in the Mid-South Conference and represents the school in 29 intercollegiate varsity sports.

Milligan University Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Bowling
  • Cross country
  • Cycling
  • eSports
  • Golf
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Track & field
  • Triathlon and volleyball

Former sports included football and men’s disc golf.

Contact details:

Address: 101 Neth Dr, Milligan College, TN 37682, United States.

Phone: +1 423-461-8700.

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Tennessee Wesleyan University

Founded in 1857, Tennessee Wesleyan University is a private Methodist university that is religiously affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, and is located in Athens, Tennessee.

As a small liberal arts school, Tennessee Wesleyan University is known for its personal attention to students.

Wesleyan is also one of the oldest NAIA universities in Tennessee, and its athletic team is called the Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs compete predominantly in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and represent the school in about 18 NAIA intercollegiate varsity sports competitions for both men and women;

Tennessee Wesleyan University Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Bowling and Volleyball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Soccer
  • Swimming and tennis

Competitive cheerleading is offered as a co-ed sport

Contact details:

Address: 204 E College St, Athens, TN 37303, United States.

Phone: +1 423-745-7504.

Fisk University

Founded in 1866, Fisk University is a private, historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.

It is also one of the NAIA member schools in Tennessee, and its athletic team is called the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs of Fisk University compete predominantly in the Gulf Coast Conference and represent the school in about 14 college sports competitions for both men and women;

Fisk University Sports for Men and Women

  • Basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Tennis and volleyball
  • Soccer and track & field (indoor and outdoor).

Club sports include cheerleading and dance.

Contact details:

Address: 1000 17th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208, United States.

Phone: +1 615-329-8500.

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Freed-Hardemen University

If you’re looking for a small school with a big athletic program, Freed-Hardeman is a great choice.

Freed–Hardeman University is a private university that is located in Henderson, Tennessee, and is religiously affiliated with the Churches of Christ and located.

Freed-Hardeman University is also one of the top NAIA schools in Tennessee, and its athletic team is called the Freed-Hardeman Lions.

The Freed-Hardeman Lions compete primarily in the Mid-South Conference and represent the school in about 16 NAIA sports competitions for both men and women;

Freed-Hardeman University Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Soccer
  • Tennis and track & field
  • Volleyball and softball.

Contact details:

Address: 158 E Main St, Henderson, TN 38340, United States.

Phone: +1 800-348-3481.

Johnson University

Johnson University is a private Christian university with a main campus in Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee, and a second campus in Kissimmee, Florida.

This institution is religiously affiliated with the Christian churches and churches of Christ, a branch of the Restoration Movement.

Johnson University is also one of the top NAIA colleges in Tennessee, and its athletic team is called the Johnson Royals.

The Johnson Royals compete mainly in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and represent the school in about 10 NAIA intercollegiate varsity sports competitions for both men and women;

Johnson University Sports for Men and Women

  • Baseball and basketball
  • Soccer and tennis
  • Lacrosse
  • Softball
  • Tennis and volleyball.

Contact details:

Address: 7900 Johnson Dr, Knoxville, TN 37998, United States.

Phone: +1 865-573-4517.

FAQs on NAIA Schools in Tennessee

What are the Best Division 1 schools in Tennessee?

  • Vanderbilt University
  • Belmont University
  • The University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Lipscomb University
  • University of Memphis
  • The University of Tennessee – Martin
  • The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Austin Peay State University

What are the Best Division 2 schools in Tennessee?

  • Union University
  • Lincoln Memorial University
  • Trevecca Nazarene University
  • Lee University
  • Christian Brothers University
  • Carson – Newman University
  • Tusculum College
  • King University
  • Le Moyne – Owen College
  • Lane College

What are the Best Division 3 schools in Tennessee?

  • Rhodes College
  • Sewanee – The University of the South
  • Maryville College

What is the difference between NCAA and NAIA?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student-athletes from over 1,268 North American institutions and conferences. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a smaller athletic association with about 250 member schools.

Is NAIA better than NCAA?

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a smaller athletic association than the NCAA and because of this, some people think that the schools in the NAIA are not as good as the schools in the NCAA. However, there are many great schools in the NAIA, and they offer athletes a lot of opportunities.

Are NAIA schools 4 years?

Yes, NAIA schools are four-year institutions, in addition to the four-year institutions, there are also two-year and six-year institutions. The average length of time for an athlete to complete their degree at an NAIA school is 3.5 years.

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Conclusion

If you’re an athlete looking for a smaller school with good sports programs, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) may be right for you.

These are the best NAIA schools in Tennessee, that can give you a boost in your athletic career.

Final Note

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.

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