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Saturday, May 28, 2022

BWI’s Ricky Smith Airport CEO Helped ‘Fly’ 2022 CIAA Tournament to Baltimore 

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) 2022 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament is ready to “land” at Royal Farms Arena February 22-26, 2022 and BWI’s Ricky Smith was among the “crew” that helped “pilot” the highly-anticipated event to Baltimore. Smith is Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI Marshall), and a former basketball standout who attended Virginia Union.

   “My first college experience attending a CIAA School was at Virginia Union, so I know the culture that comes with going to not just an HBCU, but an HBCU in the CIAA,” said Smith. “I know, how much those schools struggle and how much they achieve. I know how much my city Baltimore struggles and how much Baltimore City achieves. So to have the two come together the way they will be coming together later this month is special. It’s great to celebrate all the greatness that comes with the amazing talent at CIAA schools.”

   The Baltimore native added, “I’m a charter member of the local organizing committee. I was part of the team that joined Visit Baltimore to make the pitch to the CIAA to relocate the tournament from Charlotte to Baltimore.”

   Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the CIAA is governed by the Presidents and Chancellors of its 12 member-institutions: Bowie State University, Claflin University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Livingstone College, Saint Augustine’s University, Shaw University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Winston-Salem State University. Chowan University is an associate member in football and women’s bowling. 

   “We’re going to celebrate the CIAA’s commitment to education and commitment to community service,” said Smith. “People will come together and have a great time. BWI Airport is going to roll out the red carpet and welcome the fans to the Baltimore-Washington region for this tournament. When they get off the plane, they will know that they’re in a place that is welcoming and appreciates them.” 

   The CIAA Tournament has had an annual economic impact of nearly $50 million and over $650 million during the 15-year run in Charlotte. In addition to the 22 games featured in this year’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, the CIAA offers a week of celebratory events. Smith said he will be bringing remarks and keynote addresses during some of the events. 

   “I’ll be pretty busy throughout the week,” he said. “But I’m also going to find time to attend some of the events, because the fellowship is very important.”

BWI Marshall is an event sponsor. 

   “We sponsored the event because we know it’s an important economic development opportunity for the city,” said Smith. “Besides the basketball tournaments, the community service and the educational events, a lot of minorities are going to make money during this tournament. It’s going to have a huge economic impact, and minorities are going to benefit the most.  The fact that the airport can help enable that through its transportation and sponsorship is something we are very proud of.”

   Smith was appointed Executive Director/CEO of the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) on July 10, 2015.  He is responsible for the management and operations of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI Marshall), Martin State Airport, and regional aviation activities throughout the State of Maryland. 

   Smith said he attended Virginia Union University his first year in college on an academic and basketball scholarship, but never got an opportunity to play basketball due to an injury.  He holds an Accounting degree from Howard University and an Executive MBA from Loyola University in Maryland.  He has led BWI Marshall to five consecutive record-setting years for passengers including restoring BWI Marshall as the busiest airport in the Washington/Baltimore region. In 2015, he launched the BWI Marshall Youth Initiative aimed at introducing youth in Baltimore City to careers in aviation and transportation.  

   Noting late entrepreneurs Osbourne Payne and Harlow Fullwood whom he said attended CIAA schools, Smith also highlighted Baltimore attorney N. Scott Phillips and former Walbrook High School basketball star Derwin Lily. 

   “So many Baltimoreans who have done extraordinary things have graduated from CIAA schools,” said Smith. 

   Humbled by Smith mentioning his name, Phillips said of the tournament, “The history of the CIAA is pretty amazing. I attended my first CIAA as a freshman at Virginia Union in 1980 at the Norfolk Scope and I have been hooked ever since. It is a Black College Reunion.  A gathering of alumni from some of this country’s oldest HBCUs. Each year when I attend the CIAA I am reminded of the rich heritage of our schools.”

   Derwin Lilly, whose #10 jersey hangs from the rafters of Virginia Union University’s Barco-Stevens Hall is a legendary point guard. 

   “I was surprised and shocked when I heard Baltimore got the tournament because it had been held in North Carolina so many years,” said Lily. “I plan on attending. For Baltimore to host the tournament is great.”

   For more information about CIAA Tournament Week visit www.theciaa.com.

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