KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Steve Baker, who has headed the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for nearly nine years, stepped down Monday.

The former Major League Baseball International executive gave no specific reason for his departure, and the league did not elaborate.

``At this point in time, it is in the best interests of the association for me to pursue new opportunities in my professional career,'' the 49-year-old Baker said in a written statement. ``I have no doubt as to the organization's continued success.''

Jim Carr, the NAIA's chief operating officer and general counsel, was named interim president and CEO. He said he was interested in assuming the post permanently, but was focused on his short-term responsibilities.

Carr said Baker's decision may surprise some NAIA schools, but it was expected within the organization.

``It was something that Steve had been thinking about for awhile,'' said Carr, 39, of Kansas City.

The NAIA is one of the smaller, lower-profile organizations in college sports, with member schools _ and their budgets _ often dwarfed by those in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In the 12 years before Baker took the helm as president and chief executive in May 1997, the organization had lost 109 schools to leave it with 362. Today, there are 292, but Carr said that could be on the rise.

``We're starting to see a trend of members who might have left us in the past ... having an interest in coming back,'' he said.

The NAIA was founded in 1937 in Kansas City, which was its home base until 1995. Citing lagging membership and a lack of support from the region, the national headquarters was moved to Tulsa, Okla. the organization returned to the Kansas City area in July 2001, establishing its headquarters in suburban Olathe, Kan.