Indianapolis has been the home of eight Olympic sport international and national governing bodies. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), established in 1888, was the first amateur sports governing body to move to the city. The earliest and largest nonprofit volunteer group for the promotion and development of amateur sports in the U.S., the AAU moved to Indianapolis in 1970. Indianapolis businessman and publisher of the AAU magazine Amateur Athlete, Beurt Servaas, and American Fletcher National Bank chairman and 1960 U.S. Olympic swimmer Frank Mckinney Jr. spearheaded this move to Indianapolis.

A man steps out of a brown three-story tower which is at the front entrance of four-story rectangular building.
NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, 2020 Credit: Charlie Nye/USA Today Network via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 required each Olympic or Pan American Games sports to form its own governing body. Previously, (AAU) held the United States international memberships for all these sports. The legislation created eight governing bodies: the International Baseball Association (IBA); The Athletics Congress of the U.S.A., since renamed U.S.A. Track and Field (USA/TAF); U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team (USCKT); U.S.A. Diving; U.S. Gymnastics Federation (USGF); U.S. Synchronized Swimming (USSS); U.S. Water Polo (USWP); and United States Rowing Association (USRowing). The founders of TAC/USA and U.S. Diving came to Indianapolis as part of the AAU in 1971 and chose to stay in the city when they formed separate organizations.

The Corporate Community Council (CCU), an informal group composed of leaders from local businesses and organizations, targeted sports as an economic development strategy and as a way to revitalize the downtown area. Mayor William Hudnut Iii and the CCC, in collaboration with Lilly Endowment, Inc. (LEI), created the nonprofit Indiana Sports Corporation in 1979 to turn the city into the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World.” With the passage of the Amateur Sports Act, the Endowment funded the move to Indianapolis of five of the six remaining individual sport governing bodies. Finally, in 1990, USWP moved its headquarters to Indianapolis with the help of another Lilly Endowment grant. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC), corporate sponsorships, and membership dues provided the operating funds for them.

In addition, Indianapolis has been home to the National Federation of State High School Association, which writes the rules for most high school sports competitions in the U.S.; the Black Coaches & Administrators, established in 1988 “to foster the growth and development of ethnic minorities at all levels of sports both nationally and internationally”; and the American College of Sports Medicine, which “promotes and integrates scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine.”

In 1997, city leaders persuaded the National Collegiate Athletics Association (Ncaa) to leave Overland Park, Kansas, its headquarters since 1952, to make Indianapolis it’s new home. The NCAA reportedly received a package of $50 million–$10 million from Lilly Endowment, $15 million from private individuals and organizations, and $25 million from state and city taxpayers–to make the move. The city built a new headquarters building and a Hall of Champions Museum in White River State Park as part of the deal.

Despite winning the NCAA, the city has not been as successful holding onto national amateur sport governing bodies. Colorado Springs, home of the U.S Olympic Committee, leads the nation as the primary home of these organizations. Only three governing bodies remained in Indianapolis (USA Football, USA Track and Field, and USA Gymnastics) when U.S.A. Diving moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the end of 2019. Because of the major U.S.A. Gymnastics Sex Abuse Scandal, which the Indianapolis Star uncovered in September 2016, the future of that governing body remains uncertain.

Revised March 2021

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