The CIAA Tournament is Moving to Baltimore in 2021. DMV Alumni Better Not Blow This Like Folks in North Carolina Did

Baltimore will host the CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments beginning in 2021, the conference announced today after news broke yesterday afternoon on HBCU Gameday.

Charm City beat out incumbent host city Charlotte and Norfolk for the right to host one of the nation’s most popular college sporting events, which in recent years has grossed an average of $50 million in economic impact for the Queen City and businesses in its metropolitan footprint.

“This is an exciting time for the CIAA as we have an opportunity to bring the basketball tournament to a new market, moving it closer to many of our northern institutions who have travelled to Charlotte for more than a decade,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “We are incredibly thankful for our partnership between the CIAA, the City of Charlotte and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA).  Charlotte is still our home, we are still headquartered here. We have built life-long friendships with our partners and the community that goes beyond the tournament. We plan to continue this great relationship.”

Conference officials seemingly grew weary of the hotel price gouging, latent racism and bad financials of its deal with Charlotte and made good on a threat to move it to a city where Carolina-based fans may protest the new mileage required to get to everything but a CIAA basketball game, but where once-distant fans from the Philadelphia-DC-Richmond corridor may feel more at home.

The CIAA Tournament, like the Bayou Classic, has unfairly become an annual referendum on the value of HBCU athletics based upon fan attendance, corporate sponsorship dollars and buzz in traditional and social media. Without all of these things, the tournament still draws thousands of people and adds much gravitas to the tourism profile of whatever city hosts the event.

Northern-based HBCU basketball fans have to learn lessons from the spoiled and coddled fans in North Carolina, who for 13 years enjoyed the high life of the CIAA Tournament social orbit, but who never drove the tournament’s brand as an actual athletic event despite most of the participating schools being in the State of North Carolina.

Those fans won’t be coming to Baltimore; they’ll say it will be too far to go, too cold to visit in February, and not as much fun as Charlotte. All of those things may be legitimate points for everyone below Petersburg, Va., but not for everyone above it. And for everyone who is all-in for a black college basketball tournament within a two-hour drive of several major cities, the onus is on them to actually fill the Royal Farms Arena to help the conference maintain its swag as a lightning rod for companies looking to sell products and goodwill to educated, affluent black people.

The City of Baltimore also has to learn lessons from Charlotte’s mistakes in handling the CIAA Tournament. The CIAA is looking for partnership in controlling hotel room rates, limiting opportunities for independent party promoters to throw CIAA-branded parties without licensing or permission, and to support in-arena engagement opportunities. Missing work in these areas will make the two-year deal with the CIAA a limited-run show.

And when they aren’t watching the games, they have to make the Inner Harbor and downtown social areas as lit as Charlotte annually appeared on Instagram and Facebook.

This will be the first time in more than a decade where the CIAA Tournament will reclaim the opportunity to build interest not only with geographically distant alumni of CIAA schools, but also with graduates former CIAA schools like Morgan State and Hampton, and SWAC alumni now living and working in the mid-Atlantic but who do not travel to Mississippi, Houston, Atlanta or New Orleans for major conference games and tournaments.

Moving to Baltimore gives the CIAA a chance to evolve as a national event for all HBCU students and alumni, something that the tournament lost in the glitz of its run in Charlotte. The new city may not give everyone the late winter getaway they want, but it will give the conference a chance to rediscover what its basketball tournament should have always been; a showcase of HBCU talent and black buying power that just happens to give way to decent bars and clubs once the games are over, and not the other way around.

6 comments
  1. The area isn’t going to make people attend the games. Most young people go to party. I myself will not go to Baltimore! Not a good site.

  2. Only 1 school in that area! The city is not a good spot. Not happy! I’ve gone every year since they came to Charlotte. I can’t see their hotel prices being any better. I’ve attended a conference there and the prices and parking were way higher. I will pass on Baltimore!

  3. I can understand that from a tourist perspective. I do not understand it from a basketball perspective, which is what the conference’s approach is and what we as fans should want. Baltimore gave the conference more money for scholarships, and the basketball arena rent-free. This helps the member schools to keep more of the money they yield respectively from the tournament. I hope most fans don’t take the position that they won’t support it because it is seemingly not as good of a vacation spot as Charlotte, because Charlotte was not a good supporting partner of our schools.

  4. Great move. If you check enrollment over 70% of HBCU students come from out of a northern state. The new location will be able to reach more of these future students and alum. Parking and hotel prices will be high but you will have more choices than was available in Charlotte. Attendance may drop for the first few nights but championship Saturday will be packed.

  5. CIAA students and alumni should give it a shot to see how the City of Baltimore responds to the huge influx of fans coming to Charm City to have fun, enjoy basketball and great crab cakes. Hopefully, the City will educate their police force and they will protect and not provoke problems. There have been some great AA Conferences and activities in Baltimore, with lots of music and fun,and black folks enjoyed themselves. There is lot to do in the Baltimore area, and if not go to DC and the African American Museum.

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