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C.I.A.A. Tournament Needs Basketball Fans, Not Party-Goers, to Maintain Its Rich Legacy

Attendance at CIAA Tournament games must increase.

Attendance at CIAA Tournament games must increase.

The C.I.A.A. (known as the “C-I-Double A”) ranks as the most prestigious and well-attended basketball tournament for Black colleges, and has been since its inception in 1945-46. But in the last decade, it has little by little floated away from its legacy of supporting member schools and social wonderment into party central. And that’s not cool.

It might sound extreme, but the future of this beloved conference tournament that has produced countless leaders in various industries is troubled. The future of many potential professional athletes could be in doubt if the need for corporate infusion and twerking does not find a middle ground.

Tens of thousands of people flocked into Charlotte last weekend for the CIAA Tournament—and perhaps 90 percent of them did not attend a single basketball game.

But close to 100 percent of the “fans” attended day parties, night parties and after-parties. This is not to say socializing should be minimized. Indeed, the CIAA might be the originator and the perfector of the day-party, those afternoon delights that are just as thumping as one would expect at a party held during traditional evening events.

It is a concept that has caught on nationwide and it can be liberating to enjoy.

But at what price? Meaning, people literally travel for hours to Charlotte to party, which means the essence of the tournament—founded to showcase Black college talent and serve as an opportunity for students and alumni of the participating schools to fellowship—has morphed into a corporate money grab.

Major sponsors and promoters, seeking to take advantage of that trillion dollars in African-American spending power, create events and concerts that add a nice element to the weekend…if it did not take away from the genuine purpose of the occasion.

Many alums who would make the annual trip to Norfolk or Richmond or Raleigh or Winston Salem—other past CIAA Tournament sites—have been priced out by greedy hotels and scared away by young party-goers whose primary focus is to “wild out.”

There was a gentler, warmer time for the CIAA Tournament, and it was not that long ago. During that period, the games were packed and the parties were fun, not potentially dangerous. Mr. CIAA, a gentleman who would parade around the arena in colorful suits, was a form of entertainment. Fashion was a theme, often with women sporting fur coats and men dapper in suits and ties. Not anymore, although Mr. CIAA refuses to be run out.

The box scores from the games do not even post attendance numbers, as box scores are supposed to. Instead, the box score from the men’s championship game read: “Attendance: 0.”

Could that be a way of not disclosing to sponsors how few people actually go to the games?

It also is not cool that CIAA officials had to use the start of the week to distance the tournament from a shooting at a concert featuring rappers T.I. and Young Jeezy and a stabbing at another “CIAA party.”

Derek Ross, a spokesman for the CIAA tournament, said the events where the violence occurred were “unaffiliated with the CIAA. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a thing we have control over.”

Mr. CIAA has been a fixture at the tournament for decades.

Mr. CIAA has been a fixture at the tournament for decades.

He said tournament leaders try to encourage attendees to go to events sanctioned by the CIAA and have tried to dissuade promoters–sometimes with letters from attorneys–from using the CIAA name on advertisements.

“All of our events–and we tried to communicate with our friends through email blasts and social media–are either positioned at the convention center or other official city locations,” Ross said.

“The people coming for the tournament, for the fellowship, for old friends from school, those things that are going on at Time Warner Arena were fine. There are other entities outside of the CIAA itself that host parties. Those entities, they need to step up their security mechanism for security.”

There is no easy solution to this quagmire. Charlotte signed on to host the tournament for another six years. The CIAA brings in $30 million to the city, including 40,000 hotel rooms, the city’s tourism authority said. That many of those rooms cost upwards of $300 a night in Charlotte speaks to the exorbitant price-gouging that keeps away the retiree on fixed income who used to make the CIAA Tournament an annual experience.

This is a conference of enormous history. The gracious Earl Lloyd, who died last week, was the first Black player to play in an NBA game. He played in the CIAA Tournament for West Virginia State. NBA champion Bobby Dandridge played at Norfolk State in the CIAA. Charles Oakley and Ben Wallace, both from Virginia Union, were at the tournament last week. Hall of Famer Earl “The Pearl” Monroe played at Winston Salem; Detroit Piston “Bad Boy” champion Rick Mahorn played at Hampton in the CIAA; Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters went to Johnson C. Smith; Al Attles from North Carolina A&T coached the Golden State Warriors to the 1975 NBA championship. The list of remarkable, accomplished CIAA products is extensive.

When Norfolk State, Hampton and other schools bolted for the MEAC, the conference was hurt by the talent it lost, but not in its tradition. The CIAA is bigger than any school.

It is a legacy that is beyond reproach in African-American college athletics. It was founded in 1912 as the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “Colored” was replaced with “Central,” a sign of progress. The focus has to be on preserving this history, and not making it the place to come to party day and night.

By the way, for those who were “at” the CIAA Tournament but not really at the tournament, Livingstone College won the men’s side of the Tournament for the second straight year. Virginia State won the women’s title.

What people are saying

63 thoughts on “C.I.A.A. Tournament Needs Basketball Fans, Not Party-Goers, to Maintain Its Rich Legacy

  1. That's just a case of everyone having their hands in the cookie jar and the schools are getting crumbs. The CIAA should do more to bring attention to the actual athletes and games instead of the events surrounding it.

    The Bayou Classic and SCG do a good job at this. then again the SWAC is D1 as well so it's a little easier to do it. Hopefully the SWAC continues to grow the b-ball tourney in H-town as an event while keeping the focus on the actual product (which is actually improved) and the CIAA can get back to the actual games instead of the concerts surrounding it.

  2. Better recruiting from coaches will get better players which produce better teams and people will come to games. People don't attend the games while on campus. What makes you think they will anywhere else? It's all about entertainment and the tournament has to supply better entertainment.

  3. Just cut out some of the parties.

  4. they can't complain when the The CIAA is charging people 300-900 and night to stay in hotels… what students do you know can afford that? and yes the CIAA conference buys all of the hotels that are in the uptown area for a low price and resells them for double, triple, sometimes even more…. I would never respect or support that conference… I hope they fold like St. Pauls did

  5. they can't complain when the The CIAA is charging people 300-900 and night to stay in hotels… what students do you know can afford that? and yes the CIAA conference buys all of the hotels that are in the uptown area for a low price and resells them for double, triple, sometimes even more…. I would never respect or support that conference… I hope they fold like St. Pauls did

  6. Funny this is written by an Atlanta paper.

  7. looks like the weather that week played a part of attendence………

  8. Lets be real: Certain rap acts and entertainers bring a certain element to the occasion. It isnt college students causing trouble, its other kids. The price gouging needs to stop. Every other party is a rap party. Where is the Charlotte police? A heavier police presence would curtail troublemakers from bad behavior. As for the teams getting better: If you didnt attend a CIAA school or HBCU, you cant truly understand about the tradition of the tournament, which was always televised by BET. Stop the price gouging!!

  9. Stop all the parties and eliminate all the gangster rappers.

  10. Steven Hooper no it didn't, it was packed here, and every party was packed, just not the games, as it is every year. It hasn't been good the past 5 years, but people come for the parties, I know people who don't even know who won the tournament.

  11. I'm sure Atlanta could do a better job. Why not take the CIAA.

  12. I totally disagree with article. I believe that you give the customer, consumer what that want and build your marketing and programming around that.

  13. Justin Young says:

    I agree fans need to step up

  14. Karen Clare says:

    Atlanta no way. There's no CIAA school there.

  15. R.M. Ferb says:

    CIAA schools need to make their spring break week same time as tourney week, offer good pricing to students and good discounted hotels to make the students from each school want to come and support their teams. This will help fill the seats in Time Warner. Also, the schools are surely getting a piece of the hotel profits. This year to reserve a room in the 'Up Town' section of the city you had to contact the school directly connected to the specific hotel you wanted to stay at in order to reserve a room. I do agree that better security is needed by promoters

  16. Jay Trenell says:

    Renee Forever Young, I was going to say the same thing. This article was one sided from a publication dedicated to a city not only a year ago was bidding with the CIAA to move the tournament to Atlanta so they can price gauge. So Coca Cola can sponsor events and more parties, more celebrities and glitz. Atlanta selling point was a larger "black star power" market with the same pluses Charlotte had over Winston and Raleigh, which is a lot of the events are in a centralized location. Hell, people got into fights and shootings in Winston during CIAA as well. I think ABS should focus on Atlanta. Two of Atanta's Blackstars were in the club were the shooting occur. Neither one of them went to a CIAA school either.
    My next point is I could ask 10 different people who went to one of those CIAA schools, either alum or currently enrolled. What is your school's current basketball record and majority have no idea. They don't even know the kids names that play for their own team. Let alone all the current teams in the conference such as Lane. Schools need to work on a better strategy to get true fans to HOME games and then they will travel. Most home basketball games are filled 90 percent by the student body who tuition paid the entry fee.
    CIAA sells rooms themselves downtown exclusively from there site this year. Price jumps like 100 – 200 a night. I got my room from there site last November. Everything else was booked up downtown. Trust me they made PLENTY money from rooms alone. So CIAA is making money and the city gives them a check too. DO MORE RESEARCH AS STOP the BIAS A$$ WRITING! So let do the math, they getting sanction event money, sponsor money, city money, hotel money. Tourney Money? One out of five? CMON MAN!

  17. Atlanta couldn't even control freak nick or whatever it was called. And yes I can speak for both cities. I lived in Atlanta and experienced being directed 20 minutes to a half hour outside of downtown to an area on the opposite side of town or to watch the activities of disruptive people turn something that I heeeard was sooo much fun into a hot azz mess. Atlanta could never give people what Charlotte gives and I don't have time to go into the pros and cons or the reason that Atlanta did not win the bid. Now, for 7 years straight (until I moved) the most serious arrest/crime reported (other than racism) was disorderly conduct. As soon as the entertainment changes and everybody wants in, look what happens and look who is involved. What is the name of this newspaper? Mmmhmm. Charlotte is not going to continue to open their doors to violence. What needs to be done is revamp the basketball program and not give permits to certain entertainers. This will control a lot of the unnecessary violence and the ignorant people that want to spoil things for everyone else. Just my opinion. (Hmmm I wonder if it could be held in DC…)

  18. The parties are not the problems. Now your second comment should be discussed.

  19. Believe me the police presence is there. But on average I would receive at least 20+ pages of parties. The majority of these partys were grown folk and regular security was needed. But each year it gets younger and the entertainment gets more thugish. The police can't be everywhere.

  20. It may be a bit one sided but understand the schools do not nearly make as much as they should bc without the schools there would be no parties. And yes the schools get a guaranteed check but it's 1.4million that has to be shared between ALL of the schools when charlotte racks in 30-50 million? We have to do better in knowing our worth and our buying power

  21. What do you suggest doing specifically?

  22. Black people who want to watch basketball games and future NBA players attend schools like Duke, Carolina, etc., and go to the NCAAs. Remember that back in the day the best ball players 'had'to attend black schools..That's not the case anymore.We love all of our kids but just would prefer not to waste time on games played by the bruhs and sisters who were overlooked by the large schools.Luv em though..

  23. Kevin Morris says:

    The city of Charlotte knows exactly what they are getting. Hotels are already booked for next year. They negotiated to keep the CIAA in the city and it wasn't because of the games. They welcome the economic impact regardless of the games.

  24. They need to do what we do in the SWAC. This year we have Rick Ross and MMG as well as Salt n Pepa doing a concert AFTER the title game not the days before the game. For our football title game, we had Frankie Beverly and Maze do a concert AFTER the game for those who bought a game ticket.

    Keep the focus on the athletes.

  25. Sherolyn Gibson You nailed it.

    The Bayou Classic has around the same economic impact on NO but I think SU and Grambling EACH got around 875K.

    The CIAA and Charlotte are pimping the schools.

  26. Rosa Pickett says:

    Yes I agree with the writer. An no the weather had nothing to do with attendance.I love in Charlotte an it was packed here. And it pisses me off that every one is so money hungry. It's true not many come for the sports. They come to party. Along with that comes the crime and bad attitudes. Cause not everyone knows how to act once they leave home. Restaurant prices are through the roof. And traffic oh my goodness…. I wish people would get back into the true tradition of the conference. Because very few if any of the businesses that hold party's or events even donate ANY of the funds raised to the college's (HBCU)

  27. Rosa Pickett says:

    Meant to say… I live in Charlotte….. sorry for the typo.

  28. Pretty much.

    As long as the city of Charlotte and people running the CIAA are making a profit from the tourney, they could give two hoots about the schools and the games.

  29. glad somebody has pulled the cover off charlotte and the officers of the ciaa bout time I payed $129 per night last year same hotel $249 this year, also chec-out article in charlotte observer about a surcharge on ritz-carlton bill for ciaa. LETS BOYCOTT NEXT YEAR AND CHANGE VENUES. that will get their attention ciaa commissioner does not understand who she needs she needs us she has a big stick but is scared to swing businee 101 when you can bring millions to a city you have clout and can control room rates ETC.

  30. Jesseca Gray says:

    When I attended CIAA in 2012 with my cousin. (As alumni) we bought the entire package and sat in the nose bleed section. I did not like that experience. When I started SMITH in 2006 they used to give students discounts and let us sit where we wanted until the actual championship game. Thats one thing they cm consider for community members too.

  31. Jay Trenell says:

    Patrick Perry The BAYOU CLASSIC is FOOTBALL..That's not the same thing as Division 2 Basketball at all. CMON MAN..really? And I have been to the Bayou Classic and it is no bigger that the normal GHOE A&T homecoming. You are comparing grapes to oranges. Charlotte is not pimping anyone who decides to STAY in Charlotte an additional six years. All schools has a hand in that vote man.

  32. The SWAC has poor attendance too if not worst. I have been living in Dallas for 2 years and I didn't even know till last week the games were held in the DFW. That's a shame and listen to several different media outlets. The SWAC is not even played in major arena.

  33. Jay Trenell says:

    Sherolyn Gibson Sure Charlotte economy racks up. That's not Charlotte's City profit. That's black businesses, promoters, and services that make money within that sum you outlined. Charlotte only gets the tax generated from sells REPORTED. And there is City cost of course of managing an event of this magnitude. (Police Fire Rescue).

    Some could argue the CIAA schools are actually making more than they should. No other Division 2 black or white conference is giving the incentives the CIAA gets in Charlotte or any other city in the USA. However the CIAA basketball tournament has a larger economic impact that the BIG10 and the ACC. CIAA is a unique situation that you would have to experience to understand.
    Some of the classic CIAA teams are no longer in the conference. WSSU left and came back, NC Central, Hampton(which campus it was founded), Howard, Del State, A&T, Norfolk State and Morgan State all left. They are in a Divisional 1 MEAC that doesn't make anywhere close as to the money and sponsors that a Divisional 2 HBCU conference of smaller schools does. So here where the economics and common sense kicks in. The Black Star Power alone will trump any Divisional 2 tournament. Hell, it would in many people eyes trump Division 1 ACC basketball. HMMM P.Diddy or Lane vs Chowan or Earth Wind and Fire over some 20 years old kids is understandable if they are not known as a Ben Wallace who went to the NBA from a CIAA school. Some people aren't interested in basketball at all but they are interested in Meek Mills and Nikki so they spending money at a CIAA sanctioned event. CIAA has become victim of what happens to any oversize meet and greet of black society. Freeknik, Bike Ralley(Myrtle Beach), Caribana, or hell just your everyday homecoming. How many people show up for homecoming and don't go to the games? But they at the party later on though. So you can't blame to people for making up their own CIAA experience. Its their money, it's there choice.
    Honestly these schools are not very big anyways. Ive been to games at WSSU, Livingstone, and Johnson C Smith and filling a 30000 seat arena on a Tuesday for all the games would not probably happen no matter what you do. The champion ship games and semi final games had a nice turn out but of course if your getting a 30000 seat arena for a conference tournament that really on needs a third of that.

  34. Jay Trenell says:

    Yal tried, and lost…wait another 5 years and try again.

  35. Jay Trenell says:

    Wouldn't any PROFITABLE business? No Brainer! You go where you have the most leverage and guaranteed profit for the immediate future. No Steve Jobs needed for that decision.

  36. Antwan Lamar says:

    Atlanta didn't win the bid because the tournament simply doesn't belong because there are no CIAA schools in Georgia and alumni threatened to not support the tournament if it went there–and that was the right move. Otherwise I'm not sure what you mean by "Atlanta could never give people what Charlotte gives." Generally speaking, Atlanta has hosted tons of large-scale sporting events and is well-suited to do so. However, CIAA isn't a fit for Atlanta given the conference's footprint.

  37. Ashton Jefferies the tournament is in Houston at the Toyota Center where the Rockets play not the DFW.

  38. The CIAA does nothing To entice basketball fans to come out for the games. People should be honest, this is not division 1 basketball no one knows the names of players on teams and unless you are family or alumni most people aren't going to go watch a basketball tournament and they don't know anyone playing or know anything about the teams, at least make a attempt to put the tournament on TV or something get music artist to perform at halftime or after game's, put more commercials out to hype up the tournament the best players should have their faces out there. If it's held in Charlotte or any other city, if you give people the option b of going to a party or watching basketball with people or teams they know or have heard nothing about, wich do you think they will choose

  39. The hell with the promoters, they are the ones who ruined the party part of the weekend by their greed. I remember day parties were free, now they are $40- $75. I remember night parties were $25-$40, now they do pre-sale tickets at $40-50 and at the door depending on where you go, you can be paying $75-$300 and having a pre-sale ticket doesn't guarantee entry because the "promoter" will let the people buying door tickets in first because they are paying more… and lets not start with parking that's usually free that I saw cost between $50-$200 to park…. Promoters messed the weekend up totally!

  40. Jay Trenell says:

    You are right Richard. That's where the CIAA "legacy" spoken about in the article comes from. That was the era of Mr CIAA and the fur coats. You had Earl Monroe, Sam Jones, Cleo Hill and greats of the 50s 60s before the larger NCAA schools began recruiting black premier athletes. The talent level isn't the same. Charles Oakley and Ben Wallace are the last two that I can think of in the last 30 years that have made it to the league from a CIAA school. Yet the CIAA basketball tournament is the 3rd largest NCAA basketball tournament in the country?

  41. I hate this is happening to the legacy of the CIAA. However, I went to a CIAA school snd I would love to attend the games. It the tournament requires you to purchase an entire book for the whole week instead of individualized tickets. I live and work in charlotte i cant attend every game so I dont want to have to purchase tickets that I know I would not use. That is a wasye of me and my family money to do that. Which affects me and my boyfriend who is a WSSU Alumi from participating like we would want.

  42. Not surprised. Have you the ticket prices?!?? We wanted to go to the games but hell you'll pay a couple of car notes for a week of games!

  43. I totally agree with you JH! As a Smith alumni and fan of basketball I would love to be able to support some of the games for my team and a couple of others, but there is no way I am buying a book for the whole tournament, especially since I won't be there for all and don't even want to see them all! As for the crime, the last time I checked there was not a spike in crime during the tournament. The Charlotte police in fact attributed most of the crime during tournament time to typical Charlotte occurrences. Charlotte is a city. As for the parties, "ain't gone hurt nobody to get on down". As most young party goers will tell you the city is filled with "old people and you can't go nowhere without seeing them" during tournament time, lol!

  44. I am a Norfolk native, and I remember the high quality of many of them CIAA teams when the tournament was hosted here. At that point the top of D-ll was a lot closer to D-l basketball. Since 1980 there have been 90 D-1 basketball teams added and the quality of play in D-ll has naturally suffered. That being the case, the kids still work very hard and deserve the support of the various school's fans.

  45. Jay Trenell The sport doesn't mean a thing in this case. You can't use the D2 excuse either when the CIAA only trails the ACC and Big 10 (which recently passed the CIAA only in the past year or two) as far as attendance. Yes the CIAA outdraws about 30 D1 conference tournaments (which is why the SWAC is now using the same promoter as the CIAA). So I don't know why you are caping so hard against these schools/athletes getting pimped when the evidence is there. Numerous people commenting on this article seem to agree….

    $300+ a night for a hotel? What college student you know can afford that (especially at a HBCU)? And let's not talk about outpricing the students/alums with the ticket prices.

  46. The CIAA doesn't charge the hotel rates, that's all on the hotels. With any major event in any city all hotels will jack up rates because they can. I know this from working in the industry. As for them buying blocks of rooms and reselling them as a package with game tickets, that's a different situation.

  47. The author is a Norfolk State Alum and lives in Atlanta. Behold

  48. Quez Russell says:

    It's funny Atlanta put in a bid for this tournament but now is talking down on it because the organization turned them down and decided to keep it in Charlotte get over it Atlanta stop hating on my city because half of Atlanta residents flock to Charlotte just like anybody else

  49. Dedric Mason says:

    Actually you were able to purchase individual tickets, and if you stop by one of the HBCU's the entire book was only $50 but they were nosebleed seats..

  50. Kip Keino says:

    Wow… You sound stupid… Go sit your dumb ass down.. Basket is played in every walk in life… Put that dope down.

  51. Dedric Mason says:

    I actually did both attended the games and a few party's. I always buy a book of tickets and stay downtown. When purchasing my tickets I went on Ticket Masters but a majority of the seats where restricted for Bank of America and you had to have a code, so i purchase through my HBCU. The room rates were terrible and your not allowed to book through the hotel and when you do book most hotels do not offer doubles(have to request). The entertainment that was offer this year by the CIAA was lacking compared to last year. I'm a fan of the games so I will be returning god willing but my school LC didn't win the championship as mention in article.

  52. Doug Elder says:

    Virginia State won the men, not Livingston

  53. Doug Elder says:

    Virginia State won the men, not Livingston

  54. Willis Page says:

    If you actually registered through the schools with the "convention" type packages rooms are a little cheaper. But most younger people can't afford to register so they get jacked on prices. Booking at the last minute….people just need more incentive for going to games, since school support is clearly not it for some odd reason

  55. Please make the correction. Virginia Union University. won the Womens CIAA 2016 tournament. Thank you.

  56. Jazz Elyse says:

    My issue is with the ticket price for these games. They are ridiculously high which has kept me from attending any games

  57. Va Union women won the title. Not Va State.

  58. How is this tournament not considered racist? There wouldn't be a white college basketball tournament……

  59. This article was written in March 2015. Livingstone did win. Read the article.

  60. Marcus Picot says:

    This sound like a hater that couldn't make it to Charlotte…. shut up

  61. Doug, I feel you but, please note that this article was written on March 03, 2015. I have no idea why we are discussing an out-dated article? Are the issues the same one year later? The handwriting is clearly on the wall; therefore, immediate changes must take place if the CIAA hopes to survive!

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