Emil S. Liston

With sheer initiative, drive, and foresight, Emil Liston fought for uniformity and equality in college athletics. A dedicated administrator, Liston envisioned a small college national tournament and organized the NAIB (now known as the NAIA). The first NAIA Tournament was played in Kansas City with an eight-team field in 1937. Liston and James Naismith were close friends, and the game's inventor was a primary force in the development of the NAIB tournament. Naismith also authorized that the championship award be given in his name. Liston, who resigned from his position at Baker University in 1945 to work full-time for the NAIB, was the organization’s first executive director until his death in 1949. Liston’s legacy, the NAIA basketball tournament, now plays with 32 teams and is an exciting all-day, all-night showcase of small college basketball that attracts hoop enthusiasts from around the country.