The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, commonly called "The Kansas Conference," is a prominent intercollegiate athletics conference comprised of ten outstanding independent or private institutions of higher education in the state.
The origins of the KCAC are traced to February 15, 1890, when the Kansas Intercollegiate Athletic Association became the result of the first successful attempt at organization among Kansas colleges, "to promote and regulate amateur intercollegiate athletics." At that time the association or conference included not only private universities and colleges but also Kansas Agriculture College (now KSU), Kansas University, and Washburn University. Football seems to have been the major sponsored sport, and Baker University won the championship for the first three or four years.
In about 1902 this early association became allied with the Kansas College Athletic Conference, a group which was the first to adopt a definite set of rules and regulations. It also promoted an annual track and field meet which has continued yearly since, except for World War years. Basketball has been sponsored since 1904. Football was revived in 1907. Tennis began as early as 1912. Golf was added in 1923. By this time the name of the conference had been altered to the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference; it had grown to 17 college members and two allied members: Baker, Bethany, Bethel, College of Emporia, Fairmount (now WSU), Friends, Kansas Wesleyan, KSTC of Emporia (now ESU), KSTC of Hays (now FHSU), KSTC of Pittsburg (now PSU), McPherson, Ottawa, St.Benedict's (now Benedictine), St.Mary's, Sterling (formerly Cooper), Southwestern, and Washburn, and with St.John's and Kansas City University (Kansas) as allied members. Kansas University and Kansas Aggies had dropped out earlier to join other conferences. In 1923 the College of Emporia, KSTC of Emporia, KSTC of Hays, KSTC of Pittsburg, Wichita (formerly Fairmount), Southwestern, and Washburn withdrew to form the Central Conference.
The present legal entity comes from a reorganization of the conference when the predecessor Kansas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference formally disbanded on December 1, 1928, and a new conference was formed which again was called the Kansas College Athletic Conference. The members were Baker, Bethany, Kansas Wesleyan, McPherson, Ottawa, and St.Mary's colleges. At that time sportswriters quickly gave the KCAC league a nickname: the "Little Six," in contrast to the Big Six (which became Big Eight, now Big 12) which also was organized in 1928. St.Mary's College was discontinued in 1931. The College of Emporia returned to the fold in 1933, and Bethel was readmitted in 1939. Friends, a former member of the KIAC, was admitted in 1953. Sterling and Southwestern were approved for membership in 1958. In 1968 Tabor College and St. Mary of the Plains College were admitted to make twelve members in the conference, and the conference was organized into Southern and Northern divisions until 1970 -- when Baker, College of Emporia, and Ottawa withdrew to join two separate Missouri-based conferences. In the mid-1970s the formal name was changed again to Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. In 1975 women's intercollegiate athletics were incorporated into programs of the KCAC. Ottawa was readmitted in 1981, bringing the conference membership to 10. In 1992 St.Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City left the conference and eventually closed. In 1999 Saint Mary College-Leavenworth joined to return the KCAC membership to ten institutions.
The "Kansas Conference" (KCAC) continues to be an all-Kansas conference. The KCAC is an affiliated conference of the National Association of intercollegiate Athletics with headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Today the KCAC sponsors conference intercollegiate athletics in football, volleyball, men's cross country, women's cross country, men's soccer, women's soccer, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's indoor track and field, women's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field, women's outdoor track and field, baseball, softball, men's golf, women's tennis, and men's tennis.
The KCAC is a widely respected conference which governs intercollegiate athletics in cooperation with the NAIA.
The NAIA has maintained the highest standards while administering first-rate athletics programs since 1937, when intercollegiate championship basketball was introduced. The NAIA provides strong leadership for all aspects of intercollegiate sports. The NAIA administers athletics programs and championships in proper balance with overall collegiate educational experience. Serving higher education in this manner is a responsibility the NAIA does not take lightly. It is a relationship built on confidence and trust -- a relationship which is strengthened year after year. The future of 60,000 young people is too important to handle any other way.