The first AIA basketball team competed on December 1, 1967, against the University of Utah. Since then, we’ve sent exhibition teams to nearly every continent, competing and reaching out to others. AIA teams have played against varied opponents including the U.S.S.R. national team and No. 1-ranked college teams. Our major emphasis is on sending competitive teams of all collegiate levels around the world. During these tours, our goal is to create an environment where you can grow in your faith while sharing the gospel with others. Ultimately, we want to see Christ-followers on every team, in every sport around the world – so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.
In the winter of 1966, Dave Hannah asked Dr. Bill Bright for permission to begin an athletic ministry for Campus Crusade for Christ. Dr. Bright "commissioned" Dave and Elaine Hannah to go ahead, and Larry Tregoning, former captain for the U. of Michigan men's basketball team, became the first staff member assigned to work with them.
Dave had watched a Campus Crusade music group give an evangelistic message through a performance and realized that an athletic team could have the same opportunity. Thus, the dream began, setting in motion the creation of the AIA-USA basketball team.
Dave and Larry traveled to the NCAA Coaches Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, to talk to coaches about scheduling their teams to play AIA. Amazingly, a schedule was formed to play 27 games in its first season despite the fact that AIA had only one player. No one asked about who was on the team.
Known as "The Chargers," the AIA men's team scored its first win against Oregon, 75-73, in 1968. AIA finished its inaugural season at 15-14.
In January 1977, AIA gained national attention by upsetting the then No. 1-ranked San Francisco Dons, 104-85, before a packed crowd at the Anaheim Convention Center, their first "home game." The team was later ranked No. 1a behind the Dons in the AP and UPI national polls during the 1976-77 season. Nine days after the USF game, again at the Anaheim Convention Center, AIA upset No. 5-ranked UNLV, 104-77. During that same season, the top-ranked team in the world, the Soviet National Team, scheduled a last-minute game against AIA. With a five-day notice the AIA public relations department sold out the Long Beach Arena. AIA lost the controversial game, but finished the season at 54-7. Then on December 28, 1979, at a tournament in Paris, France, AIA upset the Russians 74-71.
In the mid-1980's, AIA began to resemble a "Fall Tour" team when their schedule changed from lasting an entire season to ending right before Christmas.
In 1990, Bowling Green State U. graduate student Marcia Burton finished her thesis on the feasibility of beginning an AIA women's team similar to the men's team. She then came on staff with AIA and formed the first-ever AIA-USA women's team. In the team's first game, AIA defeated Bowling Green, 70-65.
Through the years, AIA exhibition teams have been true to use basketball as a platform to tell others about Christ. Teams also provided great competition, helping each opponent prepare for its upcoming college schedule. In 2003, the NCAA changed the bylaws on Division I teams playing exhibition teams. Thus, beginning in 2004, AIA could no longer play against those programs, and instead, now plays Division II and III and NAIA schools.