Don’t Sleep on the CIAA Tourney
History continues in Charlotte this March.
by Rodney King / @Mehkavelli
As February turns into March, most college basketball fans turn their attention to March Madness and the NCAA Tournament.
But with all the tradition and fanfare the NCAA Tournament creates, all the excitement pales in comparison to the CIAA Tournament. The nation’s oldest historically black basketball tournament is marked on the calendar of HBCU fans and party goers. The third most attended basketball tournament for all divisions of NCAA, the CIAA tourney is half family reunion, half sporting event.
The first tournament was set in Washington DC and was a massive success at the time with a 2,000-seat sellout. Today the tournament has a new home in Charlotte, NC. In the city’s fifth year of hosting the event, a record 176,000 fans and party goers converged on the Queen City for a week of fun and basketball.
Founded in 1912 the CIAA consists Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) spanning the east coast from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. The tournament has seen its fare share of great players pass through. Former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace, former basketball standout from Virginia Union University,. Charles Oakley also from Virginia Union has played with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors. Darrell Armstrong of Fayetteville State University recently retired from the NBA New Jersey Nets and Ronald Murray of Shaw University currently plays with the NBA Chicago Bulls. Most recently, Greg Taylor of St. Paul’s College was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the 31st round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Former CIAA alumni who also found success in professional sports include Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (Winston-Salem State University), Sam Jones (North Carolina Central University), Earl Lloyd (West Virginia State University), and Bobby Dandridge (Norfolk State University). The late John McClendon and C.E. “Big House” Gaines are coaching legends and pioneers.
CIAA alumni list also boasts some of the country’s most prominent leaders including the late Reginald Lewis owner of the first black billion dollar business Beatrice Foods, the late Maynard Jackson who was first black mayor of Atlanta, GA, Douglas Wilder the first elected black governor of Virginia, Art Shell the first black NFL head coach in the modern era and Andrew Young the first black United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Fans come from across the country, not just for the games but for the celebration that is the CIAA tournament. Each year, celebrities from all parts of the entertainment industry also converge on the tournament for parties and social gatherings that rival Super Bowl Weekend.
This year, will be no different. Acts like Drake and Wiz Khalifa down to hip-hop greats like Dougie Fresh, Slick Rick and Kurtis Blow party alongside sports greats and movie stars all celebrating the history of the CIAA tournament and HBCU’s.
Recently ESPN has picked up coverage of the tournament, making the action available to more that 157 million homes across the globe. In 2010 the tournament entered into a deal with TV One to broadcast the men’s quarterfinals and semi-finals.
As we inch closer to the CIAA tournament’s centennial year, it’s for certain that this year’s tournament will be major for die hard fans and those just looking for a good party.
The CIAA tournament kicks off February 28 and runs through March 5. For more information on the CIAA tournament including official event parties and game schedules log on to ciaatournament.org.