Jacqie McWilliams is a woman of “firsts.” The Colorado Springs native is the first female Commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). The nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference, the CIAA will be holding its 2022 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament at Royal Farms Arena February 22-26, 2022.
“We’re excited to bring the tournament to the Maryland area, which has not happened since 1952,” said McWilliams. “Hopefully, a new segment of fans and alumni that come to North Carolina to our tournaments will come to be a part of the experience in Baltimore.”
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. The tournament has had an annual economic impact of nearly $50 million and over $650 million during the 15-year run in Charlotte, NC. McWilliams said the goal in 2022 is to have a similar impact on the greater Baltimore community, state of Maryland, and surrounding region.
“The tournament is where we get our best exposure, and the best opportunity to engage all of our student-athletes, our membership, and alumni,” said McWilliams. “We are happy to bring the tournament and its economic impact to Baltimore.”
In addition to the 22 games featured in this year’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, the CIAA will offer a week of celebratory affiliated events that appeal to a diverse demographic of alumni and fans. Tournament week will include annual staple events such as Fan Fest; High School Education Day; CIAA Career Expo; Super Saturday; The 6th Annual Samaritan’s Feet “Shoes of Hope” initiative; and The John B. McClendon Jr. CIAA Hall of Fame Breakfast.
The CIAA is also partnering with the city’s official sales and marketing arm, Visit Baltimore, to create a series of town halls and symposiums to include a Tech Summit; Money Moves Financial Summit; CIAA Men’s & Women’s Student-Athlete Symposium; Mental Health Panel Discussion; and more.
“People can expect culture, a lot of fun, a reunion, some great basketball and some great community events,” said McWilliams.
In another first with McWilliams serving at the Commissioner helm, the upcoming CIAA Basketball Championship Tournament marks the conference’s first in-person basketball championship tournament since 2020. The CIAA will also see its first year of a multi-year partnership with ESPN to broadcast the men’s and women’s tournaments. This marks the first time all 22 games across both events will have expanded coverage on their platforms.
“It means a whole lot, especially to a former player like myself who played women’s basketball in the CIAA,” said McWilliams who is a graduate of Hampton University. “When I came to the conference we were just doing television for our men’s games. Since I have been here, we have found parity in our schedule where the women are not just playing in the beginning of the week, and the men are not just playing in the back of the week. We have created a schedule where both our men and women are building up to the championship game.”
Highlighting the Title IX civil rights law, Williams added, “We are in the 50th year of Title IX. That is how I was able to get a deal with ESPN where we could celebrate our men and women. It’s a multi-year opportunity where we can give our athletes exposure and continue to grow with ESPN.”
The 52-year-old Hampton University graduate is as a member of the 1988 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship team and the 1987 and 1990 CIAA volleyball championship teams. As Commissioner of the CIAA, McWilliams leads all strategic planning for the conference, working closely with the 13 member institutions and the board of directors and staff to support the advancement of student athletes, and managing 14 CIAA championships.
McWilliams, who said she always aspired to be the CIAA’s Commissioner, spent nine years at the NCAA, managing NCAA championships, to include serving as Director of the Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament (2006-2009) and the Division I Men’s Basketball tournament (2007-2012). She has experience in administration, facilities and operations, compliance and governance, human resources, and external operations. A motivational speaker, she is married and has one daughter.
CIAA Tournament week will also feature the CIAA Old School Jam & Skate Party; CIAA Step Shows; and CIAA Comedy Show. Featured performers include The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff; The Legendary DJ Kool; Big Daddy Kane; YoYo; Monie Luv; Rakim; and Michel’le.
“The CIAA Basketball Tournament is a very special event,” said McWilliams. “There’s nothing like it. I hope people will see the value when we come to Baltimore and purchase tickets to support our institutions and scholarships for student-athletes. I hope people enjoy everything that comes with it such as the food and the parties, but the tournament is where I want people to focus first, and then enjoy all the other things we are doing outside of that.”
For more information about CIAA Tournament Week visit www.theciaa.com.