For the first time in 70 years, one of the most highly anticipated HBCU sporting events is returning to Baltimore.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Basketball Tournament was last held in Charm City in 1952, and will make its long-awaited return in a few weeks. The 2022 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be in person at Royal Farms Arena from Feb. 22-26.

Due to pandemic-related concerns, the tournament was canceled last year so it brings CIAA students, fans and stakeholders a great deal of excitement to hold the festivities in person for the first time since 2020. In 2021, the conference facilitated a “virtual tournament experience” instead.

The tournament comes to the Mid-Atlantic region, which is home to many CIAA alumni, after being held in Charlotte for the past 16 years. Additionally, this marks the first of a multi-year partnership with ESPN to broadcast the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, says a CIAA press release.

The conference’s leading executives joined city leaders and basketball legends Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Bobby Dandridge for a virtual press conference on Jan. 18. 

CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, Bowie State University President Aminta Breaux, Mayor Brandon Scott, Visit Baltimore CEO Al Hutchinson, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Lincoln University President Brenda Allen delivered remarks and expressed their excitement for the basketball tournament’s arrival in the city, along with the corresponding activities that will unite alumni, fans, athletes and local residents.

Bowie State men’s basketball coach Darrell Brooks and women’s basketball coach Shadae Swan attended the 75-minute press conference as well and had remarks.

“At the CIAA we eat, we party and we play great basketball, and what I’m certain of is that food, culture and entertainment in Baltimore aligns perfectly with CIAA leadership, legacy and community,” said McWilliams, a former resident of Baltimore.

Bowie State will be the primary host of the tournament considering its proximity to Baltimore and the high volume of students, athletes and graduates who reside or are natives of the area. 

“We’re looking forward to welcoming thousands of players, fans and other visitors from around the region to Maryland as they celebrate the outstanding student-athletes playing in the tournament,” Rutherford said, also highlighting the estimated $50 million economic boost it will bring to the region.

“This tournament is also a unique opportunity to highlight all that is great about Baltimore City and the area, and what it has to offer.”

The tournament was in North Carolina for the past 27 years – whether it was Winston-Salem, Raleigh or Charlotte – and the event being held in the Northeastern Corridor makes it more convenient for visitors from D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania,New Jersey and so forth to attend.

Baltimore’s vibrant sports culture makes it the ideal place for the CIAA Basketball Tournament, Scott emphasized. The tournament will “bring the best of Black America to Baltimore” he said with exuberance. 

“As mayor of Baltimore and more importantly as a basketball fan and a Black man, there really are no words to describe how excited I am to have the CIAA tournament here in Charm City at the soon-to-be new and improved Royal Farms Arena,” Scott said.

“We all know the CIAA represents an opportunity to present Black excellence in sports, academics and community in our region and nation through one of our nation’s – in this case – blackest cities, connecting the history of the CIAA with the Black history of Baltimore is a perfect match. Simply put, they go together like crabs and Old Bay.

“This is reflected in the leadership and vision that you see in our HBCUs here in Baltimore, and outstanding strengths in our Black and brown businesses in our community.”

The CIAA Championship Basketball Tournament is one of the largest and most anticipated NCAA college basketball events in the country, drawing over 150,000 fans annually, says a statement released by the conference. 

Lincoln University, which will serve as a co-host of the tournament, has a rich legacy of alumni from the Baltimore metropolitan area, most notably Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (class of 1929).

Tournament week will also feature “annual staple” events including Fan Fest, High School Education Day, CIAA Career Expo, Super Saturday, The 6th Annual Samaritan’s Feet “Shoes of Hope” initiative, John B. McClendon Jr. CIAA Hall of Fame Breakfast, and more.

Monroe, widely considered the best basketball player the CIAA has ever produced, starred in the NBA for 13 years after leading Winston-Salem State University to its only Division II national title in basketball in 1967. A number of hip-hop icons, including DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Kool, Big Daddy Kane, YoYo, Monie Luv, Rakim and Michel’le, will be performing during tournament week.

“The excitement kind of overflows. I’ve got the advantage of being not only a CIAA-er but also a guy who played in Baltimore, so this is a double whammy and I’m so happy,” said Monroe, a Philadelphia native played for the Baltimore Bullets before competing for the New York Knicks.

“It’s really exciting for us to be a part of this.”

Monroe and fellow NBA Hall of Famer Bobby Dandridge will sponsor a basketball and informative clinic with 200 youngsters as part of the tournament festivities.

The following safety protocols and guidelines will be implemented during the week of the CIAA Basketball Tournament, according to a CIAA statement:

  • Tournament patrons will be required to wear face coverings for all games at the Royal Farms Arena.
  • Vaccinations are recommended but not required.  
  • Those attending any official ancillary events during CIAA Tournament Week will be required to wear face coverings.
  • Proof of vaccination and/or negative COVID test results will be required at select private (Invitation-Only) events. The aforementioned guidelines are subject to change.

The bracket-style tournament will feature highly competitive basketball matchups among the CIAA’s 12 member institutions: Bowie State, Lincoln, Virginia Union, Virginia State, Winston-Salem State, Shaw, Saint Augustine’s, Elizabeth City State, Livingstone College, Johnson C. Smith, Claflin and Fayetteville State.

Demetrius Dillard
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