Michigan Has The Nation’s Oldest Athletic Conference; 135 Years Old in 2023
With conference realignment fresh on everyone's minds, the discussion of conference LOYALTY has been an interesting subject to talk about. Obviously, the Power conferences are the most visible, but dozens of non-Power conferences exist in NCAA football, in all three divisions. Not to mention, there's still the NAIA, and other collegiate athletic organizations.
But one of them has withstood the test of time, and outlasted them all - the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, or the MIAA, which is the oldest athletic conference in the United States.
Even before the oldest Division I conference was formed (the Big Ten in 1896), the MIAA was already 16 years old, combining teams for conference play, and setting the standard for collegiate football alignment to come.
Started in 1888, the conference included four schools:
- Albion College
- Hillsdale College
- Olivet College
- State Agricultural College of Michigan (Now Michigan State)
Yes, before it became Michigan State, they were part of the MIAA. They left in 1907, but wouldn't join the Big Ten until almost 1950.
Now, obviously at this time in history, only one of the power five conferences existed, and schools weren't traveling long distances. So, a regional "Michigan" conference made sense.
The conference continued to grow, and while the Power 5 conferences ballooned, the MIAA stayed steady, even bringing BACK Olivet College after a short departure during, and immediately following WWII.
To this day, Albion College has remained a proud member for all 135 years of the MIAA, followed closely behind by Kalamazoo College, who has been with the the nation's oldest conference for 127 years. They even surpass one of the conference's other original members, Olivet, who took a 12 year break from 1940 to 1952.
Indiana Teams in a "Michigan" conference?
BUT, expansion was inevitable, as we're seeing now on a VERY large scale, and the MIAA branched out in the late 1990s outside the bounds of the state of Michigan.
The aptly named "Defiance" college, out of Defiance, Ohio, joined for about two seasons. In 2002, the MIAA tried again, and reached out to Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, who remained with the conference until 2008.
Two outliers in a Michigan conference, that has withstood two World Wars, and outlasted dozens of other "power" conferences, which could soon include the PAC-12.
The MIAA is likely to outlive us all, but is SO old, it's even older than a lot of today's modern items. In fact, check out the list below of things that were invented AFTER the MIAA was formed, but before the Big Ten!