NIRSA’s Historical Timeline


Twenty male and female intramural directors from 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities gather at Dillard University in New Orleans for the first Intramural Conference. This event is the is the inaugural meeting of the National Intramural Association.

Dr. William Wasson, organizer and host of that first meeting, will then serve as NIA President for the next five years.

NIRSA proudly recognizes its founders, whose shared vision of the importance and benefits of recreation for all has led to the Association we know today:

  • William N. Wasson, Dillard University
  • Major Cleve Abbott, Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University)
  • Alvin M. Brown, Arkansas A&M College (now University of Arkansas Pine Bluff)
  • Roosevelt Grattic, Bethune-Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University)
  • Rudolph G. Matthews, Bethune-Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University)
  • George W. James, Albany State College (now Albany State University)
  • Annette H. Akins, Dillard University
  • James E. Hawkins, Xavier University
  • Victor Kerr, Xavier University
  • Horace W. Moody, Southern University
  • Armstead A. Pierro, Dillard University
  • Alfred C. Priestly, Xavier University
  • Hiram Workman, Xavier University
  • Allen E. Weatherford, North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University)
  • Grant S. Gray, Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University)
  • Dimples Lee, Texas State University (now Texas Southern University)
  • Juanita G. Pierce, Texas State University (now Texas Southern University)
  • Ross E. Townes, Wiley College
  • Viggo Wallace, Texas State University (now Texas Southern University)
  • Nelson Williams, Bethune-Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University)


The third annual conference of the National Intramural Association is held at Howard University, with Herman Tyrance serving as host. With the presence of S. Bischoff and Al Lumley, the organization becomes an integrated association.

The name of the Association is changed to the National Intramural and Recreation Association, although some suggest the name should change to the National Intramural and Recreation Association for Men and Women. Members, however, continue to refer to the Association as the NIA.


The Association becomes an affiliate of the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER).

The membership votes to formally drop “Recreation” from the Association’s name, making it again the National Intramural Association.

The NIA Executive Committee votes to eliminate women from membership.



The NIA rejects an offer to merge with AAHPER (which would have required NIA to give up its name).


Exhibitors are allowed to showcase their products at the annual conference.

The first annual Honor Award is presented to George Haniford of Purdue University.


The Research Grant Program is established.


The first edition of the National Intramural Association Directory is published.


The University of California hosts the 20th Annual conference in Los Angeles, California.

NIA creates the Executive Secretary position to handle administrative details of the organization. Paul H. Gunsten is the first to hold this position.



The passage of a constitutional revision makes way for the acceptance of women (once again) as members in the NIA.

Edsel Buchanan becomes the second Executive Secretary of the NIA.


Job Placement Services are offered at the annual conference for the first time.


Will Holsberry, Oregon State University, is named Executive Secretary.


The NIA membership votes to change the Association’s name to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. Mike Moore, University of Illinois, is named the first Executive Committee Student Representative.


The first issue of the NIRSA Journal was published.



The Recreational Sports Specialist (CRSS) certification program was instituted.


NIRSA adopts a Code of Ethics for Professional Members.


The National Office became a full-time operation and Will Holsberry’s title was changed from Executive Secretary to Executive Director.

The first Sport Club Symposium was held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Mary Daniels, The Ohio State University, was voted in the first female NIRSA President.


The NIRSA Executive Committee approves the appointment of Roy Yarbrough as the Association’s first historian.


The first School of Recreational Sports Management is held in Indianapolis, Indiana.



Dr. William Wasson, the founder of the NIRSA, passes away.

The first Executive Institute takes place in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The first Sports Facilities Symposium is conducted in Boston, Massachusetts.


The NIRSA Natural High program is established under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

The NIRSA Foundation is established.

The Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference (ERSL), then called the Emerging Minority Leaders Workshop, is first held at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.


The first Wasson Student Leadership and Academic Awards are presented.


2.29 acres of land is purchased in Corvallis, Oregon for the building of the NIRSA National Center.


The first Outdoor Recreation Symposium is held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina.

The Association celebrates 25 Years of Women in NIRSA.


July: Groundbreaking for the new NIRSA National Center takes place in Corvallis, Oregon.

July: Will Holsberry, NIRSA Executive Director, retires.

August: Dr. Kent J. Blumenthal succeeds Holsberry as NIRSA’s second Executive Director.


July: Dedication of the NIRSA National Center in Corvallis, Oregon.


The NIRSA Services Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of NIRSA, is officially formed.

eFASTNEWS, NIRSA’s electronic communication, is started in the fall.

The 50th NIRSA Annual Conference is held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The inaugural issue of the Recreational Sports & Fitness Magazine is published.



The first Marketing Symposium is offered in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Volleyball Sport Club Championships move from campus venues to convention center venues.

The first issue of the Association’s newsletter, NIRSA Know, is distributed.


First Aquatics Symposium is offered in College Station, Texas., NIRSA’s online career services network is launched in December.

The NIRSA Board of Directors holds its first special meeting via teleconference in December.

NIRSA’s first financial audit conducted is by an outside CPA firm. The NIRSA Journal is renamed the Recreational Sports Journal.


NIRSA is accepted as a member of the Council of Higher Education Management Associations (CHEMA).


The first Fitness Institute is offered in San Diego, California.

The last issue of NIRSA’s official magazine, Recreational Sports & Fitness, is published in November.

Roy Yarbrough, NIRSA Historian retires in December.


NIRSA launches the first issue of the electronic version of NIRSA Know.

The NIRSA Education & Publication Center, a joint publishing venture between NIRSA and Human Kinetics, is launched in January. Paul Wilson is named as NIRSA’s new Historian.

The Value of Recreational Sports in Higher Education: Impact on Student Enrollment, Success, and Buying Power, is published. It combines the first, second, and third sections of the 2002 Kerr & Downs Research Report commissioned by the NIRSA Board of Directors.

Online voting by proxy ballot is implemented at the 2004 Annual Conference.


The Research Institute partnership with The Ohio State University is established.

The CRSS exam is suspended on July 1.

The National Campus Championship Series (NCCS) is created.


The NCCS National Flag Football championship is held at University of Texas at Dallas.


The first Intramural Sports Symposium is offered in Raleigh, North Carolina.

NIRSA’s partnership with Human Kinetics results in the publishing of Campus Recreation: Essentials for the Professional, Space Planning Guidelines for Campus Recreational Sport Facilities and the online NIRSA Flag Football Officials Course.


60th Anniversary of the NIRSA Annual Conference.

Amended Bylaws create a new governance structure with the following key elements: the NIRSA Board is reduced from 11 members to 7; the Member Network is established to focus on networking, professional development, representation, and growing future leaders within each region; the Assembly is established to function as a visionary “think tank” for the profession; voting for the NIRSA Board now takes place at least 60 days before the Annual Conference.



NIRSA’s new governance structure takes effect with the election of the Member Network and the population of the Assembly.

NIRSA launches its new Professional Networking site called “Habitat”.


NIRSA introduces its new professional credentialing program, The Registry of Collegiate Recreational Sports Professionals (RCRSP).

In December, NIRSA Executive Director Kent J. Blumenthal steps down after more than 14 years with the Association.

The first Special Olympics Unified Sports division is offered at a NIRSA regional tournament (Southern Illinois University’s regional flag football tournament). Four teams participate.


Pam Watts becomes NIRSA’s third Executive Director.

NIRSA adopts a new mission statement, as well as the tagline of NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation.

NIRSA adopts six strategic values for the Association: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Global Perspective; Health and Wellbeing; Leadership; Service; Sustainable Communities.


The Centennial of the Collegiate Recreation profession is celebrated along with the 100th anniversary of the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University Intramural Departments.


In an effort to embrace and project a global perspective for the Association, the NIRSA National Center is rebranded NIRSA Headquarters.

NIRSA and ACPA co-host their annual conferences in Las Vegas.

The NIRSA National Soccer Championships celebrate their 20th anniversary.

The NIRSA Board of Directors endorses NIRSA’s statement in support of marriage equality.

Southern University opens the Horace Wesley Moody, Sr Intramural Sports Complex, the first collegiate recreational sports facility named for a founding NIRSA member.


NIRSA pioneers the creation of an inclusive transgender participation policy for athletic competitions.

The NIRSA Collegiate Recreation Trends Research Project issues its inaugural white paper on university employee wellness programs.


NIRSA and Special Olympics announce a shared goal to expand Special Olympics Unified Sports at NIRSA member colleges and universities.

December: NIRSA Executive Director Pam Watts is named Chair of the Steering Committee for CHEMA (Council of Higher Education Management Associations).


Oregon State University and the University of Texas at Austin celebrate 100 years of campus recreation.

Executive Director Pam Watts represents NIRSA and campus recreation on the Industry Advisory Panel for ACE (American Council on Exercise).


Canada is formally established as a distinct, seventh region of NIRSA.

The NIRSA 2017 Annual Conference features a standalone general session panel on “Creating a Culture of Wellbeing” to discuss how campus recreation can collaborate and lead an integrated approach to embedding health and welling as core pillars of university culture.