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Forerunner to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics(NAIA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball, (NAIB) was established on March 10, 1940 in Kansas City, Missouri. The association got its start three years after a men's basketball tournament was held in Kansas City. The tournament was started by Dr. James Naismith and others who wanted to establish a forum for small colleges and universities to determine a national basketball champion. The original eight-team tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1938.

In 1948, the NAIB became the first national organization to open their intercollegiate postseason to African-American student-athletes.

In 1952, the NAIB was transformed into the NAIA, and with that came the sponsorship of additional sports.

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