The Road to Muni is different for every team that gets there. However, facing tough competition is the best way to prepare your team for the NAIA National Championships. While league play is always tough, scheduling to play in classics allows teams to face multiple tough non-conference teams in just the matter of a couple of days. That is what the 20 teams, who make up men’s field for ‘The Show’, signed up for when they agreed to partake in the 8th Annual NAIA Classic ‘The Show’ that takes place in Kingsport, Tennessee on November 25th-27th.
Ken French, Head Coach at Oakland City, is the visionary behind The Show. The NCAA D1’s have their Holiday tournaments or events during ESPN’s Feast Week. While watching those games Coach French thought to himself “why can’t we do something like that at the NAIA”. Motivated to start a classic, Coach French invested a lot of time talking with other coaches about their interest in having high quality games at a neutral site location. An event that would have raters from different leagues participate, so that teams they may not get to see normally, could be seen in-person. The original plan was to help promote teams from the Appalachian, River States and Sun Conferences.
All that was needed now was a venue to host the classic. When discussing locations, Coach French was able to partner with friend, Frank Lett, of Visit Kingsport. Frank acts as the co-tournament director and the Visit Kingsport team is great in helping to host the classic. With the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament being held in the convention center at the MeadowView Resort, it made sense that for them to also be the host for ‘The Show. The convention center is able to be set up into two separate courts with a wall between to divide the courts. It’s a unique venue with players being able to walk straight through the lobby and into the convention center to play games.
For Coach French, he wanted ‘The Show’ to have a talented field, but he also wanted to promote the NAIA’s Champion of Character initiative. With that in mind, ‘The Show’ elected to do that by selecting one player, from each team, as a Champion of Character Award winner. Those serve as the only awards given out for the ‘The Show’.
The vision finally turned into a reality eight seasons ago when Coach French and Frank Lett launched the inaugural NAIA ‘The Show’. It started off as an eight team field in Year 1, but it has grown in both size and popularity over the years. While a lot of new teams are helping to grow the field, there are several repeat teams and coaches as well. Outside of Coach French led teams, Coaches, Kevin Burton, Mark Hester and Sean Hanrahan are all in their 5th or 6th season of bringing teams to ‘The Show’. With the popularity growing, the 2022 field consists of 20 men’s teams and 8 women’s teams. The men’s field consists of 12 teams that qualified for the 2021-22 NAIA National Championships. The men’s field also has 12 states and 9 different leagues being represented in Kingsport this year. It will also feature some of the NAIA’s best players with four reigning Conference Player of the Year winners.
With no shortage of great teams and players, ‘The Show’ has turned into the premier classic for the NAIA. Here are a couple of quotes, from two coaches in this years field, on why they wanted to add ‘The Show’ to their schedule for this season.
“We’re excited to play in “The Show”. We knew Coach French and the folks in Kingsport work extremely hard to make this event one of the premier events at our level each and every year. It’s an easy trip for us with an opportunity to play against teams we don’t get to see that often. The talent and competition will be top-notch.”
Tigh Compton Head Coach, Pikeville (KY) – @tighcompton
“The West coast is like an island in NAIA. We’ve got a lot of great ball being played out this way but if we don’t head East to compete against the other top programs nobody would ever really know the level of play we have out here. ‘The Show’ gives us an opportunity to prepare for teams that we will see in Kansas City, competing for the national title. Our guys will be better prepared and nothing should surprise them once we arrive.”
Lance Von Vogt, Head Coach, William Jessup (CA) – @CoachVonVogt
“As a 16 year veteran in NAIA basketball, one of the best scheduling decisions I have ever made is playing in “The Show” at the end of Thanksgiving week. The games take place at the beautiful Marriott Meadowview Resort, in Kingsport, Tennessee. The games are played at the resort, which I really like because it makes for less time in a bus. There are great options for team meals and team functions. This event is so successful because of who organizes and runs it. Ken French is an extremely organized tournament director and Frank Lett (Associate Executive Director/Director of Sports Marketing for Visit Kingsport is detailed oriented with a focus on hospitality. The Show is premier event that every NAIA coach should consider. You can compete against top ranked opponents, from different regions, on a neutral court. The combination of Men’s and Women’s team, playing simultaneously in the same hotel also creates a national tourney like experience because so many different teams and programs are watching you play. We have attended 5 years in a row, and we will continue to go as long as we are invited.“
Sean Hanrahan, Head Coach, Warner (FL) – @SeanHanrahan_
We will have more coverage on the field, the matchups and the players that make up the Classic in the weeks headed into ‘The Show’, but for now we are happy to help promote the Classic and help to release this years schedule for the 8th Annual NAIA Classic ‘The Show’. So, without further ado, here is your schedule for the 2022 ‘The Show’:
NAIA ‘The Show’ – Kingsport, TN – Nov. 25th-27th