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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Long-awaited CIAA Basketball Tournament returns to Baltimore Feb. 21

One could not ask for a better arrangement: the nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference will have its annuals hoops tournament in a predominantly Black city to culminate Black History Month.

Baltimore City is widely considered a sports town. It is home to two major professional sports teams—the Orioles and the Ravens. But as it relates to basketball, Charm City boasts one of the richest legacies in the sport and has produced a long line of iconic hoops figures — from the likes of Muggsy Bogues, to Skip Wise, to Carmelo Anthony, Angel McCoughtry and so forth.

Baltimore is a town with the rare privilege of being home to two HBCUs, Morgan State University and Coppin State University. While also taking into consideration the city’s cultural richness and storied basketball tradition, hosting the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) Tournament seems to be ideal for Baltimore.

“The CIAA Basketball Championship Tournament is a precursor to March Madness, and also intentionally falls during the last week in February, timed to Black History Month,” according to a recent statement released by the conference. 

“As one of the country’s top 10 cities with the highest percentage of Black or African-American residents, one that celebrates and amplifies Black culture, Baltimore is the perfect destination for the CIAA Tournament.”

After a 70-year hiatus, the CIAA Basketball Tournament made its return to Baltimore in 2022, which saw massive success according to local officials. The tournament will be held again this year in downtown Baltimore at the newly rebranded, renovated and renamed CFG Bank Arena from February 21-25, 2023.

The conference’s 12 member men’s and women’s basketball teams (Bowie State, Lincoln, Virginia Union, Virginia State, Elizabeth City State, Livingstone, Shaw, Saint Augustine’s, Winston-Salem State, Fayetteville State, Johnson C. Smith and Claflin) will compete in a bracket-style tournament.

On June 1 last year, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott joined Visit Baltimore, the state of Maryland and CIAA officials to announce that the men’s and women’s basketball tournament will extend its run in town through the 2024-2025 season following a successful first year in-person in Baltimore in 2022.

In addition to the 22-game tournament lineup, the week will consist of numerous in-person events and activities including Fan Fest, High School Education Day, CIAA Career Expo, Super Saturday, a Diversity & Inclusion Panel and the John B. McClendon Jr. Hall of Fame Breakfast among others.

Conference officials announced that the CIAA is partnering with Visit Baltimore to offer the second annual series of town halls and symposiums that will include a Tech House Summit, Money Moves Financial Summit, CIAA Men’s & Women’s Student-Athlete Symposium and a Health & Mental Wellness Forum.

Attendees, many of whom will be CIAA alumni from the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and South, will have the opportunity to indulge in entertaining shows and performances, from the CIAA Legends of Hip Hop Party, to the CIAA High School and Greek Step Shows, to the CIAA Alumni party. 

Artists confirmed to perform over the course of tournament week include hip-hop icons Doug E. Fresh, Lil’ Mo, DJ Kool, Rare Essence, Kid Capri, Slick Rick, KRS-One and Chubb Rock, according to a CIAA press release.

This year’s tournament will be special for a number of reasons. Not only does this year mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX, but it also marks CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams’ 10th year with the conference. 

McWilliams, regarded by Black Enterprise as “one of the most accomplished Black women in the NCAA,” was the CIAA’s first female commissioner and first-ever appointed Black female commissioner in the NCAA across Divisions I, II and III.

The Virginia Union men’s basketball team and Lincoln women’s basketball team were the winners of the conference tournament in 2022. 

According to the CIAA, last year’s tournament welcomed more than 66,000 visitors and had an estimated economic impact of $19.6 million for the city of Baltimore, supporting roughly 1,159 part-time and full-time jobs while generating $1.9 million in state and local taxes.

Along with Bowie State women’s basketball coach Shadae Swan, a former St. Frances and Goucher College standout, 12 CIAA basketball players who will be competing in the tournament have ties to Baltimore. 

Excitement awaits for the thousands of CIAA students, alumni, community members and sports fans who will be in attendance.

“The CIAA is an occasion that celebrates Black excellence and culture while bringing together student athletes, coaches, sports fans, celebrities and the business community,” said Al Hutchinson, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore. “We are excited to bring the tournament’s energy back to Baltimore and hope to see both out-of-town fans and locals come to experience the championship games at the newly revamped CFG arena as well as the community events happening throughout the week.” BT

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