The CIAA Tournament: The Week Long Gathering Of Hypocrisy

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: March 8, 2006

NORTH CAROLINA—Another year and another CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament in the books. Yes, the 61st Annual CIAA Tournament came and went at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, NC and all of the fans, alumni, family and friends were there taking in all of the action that makes the Tournament unique and historic to all that enjoy it. Like the previous 3 years I attended the Tournament, I watched the games, reported on them and went back to my normal life routine and work schedule. But one thing I notice shamefully has not changed over the years I’ve attended the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is the attendance by those same fans, alumni, family and friends I previously mentioned. The fact that very few people at the Tournament, attend the Tournament games. With apologies to alumni who actually do something crazy like attend the games and apologies to the former players, former coaches, family and friends who attend the games, you are excluded from what I am about to say. And by all means, I am not excluding the schools that really dont invest in their athletic departments aggressively and show their athletics support, but where is the loyalty? What happen to attending one of the greatest and most prestiges Tournaments in all the land especially for HBCU’s(Historically Black College’s) for the action on the hardcourt? The up and down action on the basketball court that some of the most notable, recognizable and talented players that attended these meaningful institutions has been replaced with concerts, comedy shows, step shows, club events and overall partying in recent years. When did this transformation occur? Was it the days of the past when legends like Earl “THE PEARL” Monroe graced the conference with his skill, talent and ability? Was it in the era of the “BIGS” (Big men) like the Charles Oakley’s or Rick Mahorn’s of the world who towered over opponents yet kept their intimidation and emotions in check to win games for their college or university. Or could it be of recent times when the likes of “BIG BEN” Wallace displayed his athletisim with size, rebounds and scoring dominating the inside and putting fear in opponents hearts and mind all the way to the NBA.

Why do the people related to the CIAA Tournament travel so far and so often, year after year to not support the school they attended? The whole idea of this and any tournament is to come out, show school spirit and support your team win or lose as they battle and represent the coaches, teachers, faculty, players, students and overall supporters of today and yesterday. Those men and women on the hardcourt, battle long and hard to bring home the championship for the school they attend and play even harder for the seniors that may be on the team who’s organized basketball playing days may be coming to an end.

Is it too much to ask to attend one game? One men’s game, One women’s game or one day of basketball? The school spirit, school pride, bragging rights and competitiveness has been replaced with how much we can laugh, dance, drink, socialize, style, profile and even picking up someone(And you know what I mean) along the way. You can’t have it both ways. In order for the Universities to survive financially, to keep enrolling new bright young people, to “keep the doors open”, CIAA alumni, fans, friends and family must put social cravings to the side and put their economic power back into the schools they represent.

Throughout the Tournament whether its in Raleigh, Charlotte or anyone else, you can find most people in town for the Tournament mixing, mingling, shopping and spending. Spending at the stores, shops and malls that are not the central location or affiliation with the Tournament which goes directly to those business owners and helps the city economy, but not the schools. You also will not find too many people attending the games wherever the games are being held and the venue is usually where you can find Tournament programs, t-shirts, sweaters, pins and other memorabilia that can be purchased which gives back to the schools who belong to the CIAA.

Most people in town for the festivities take the word literally. They attend social events and clubs and have no thoughts of the emptiness the players and coaches who work hard to win for themselves and their schools must feel when they look up in the stands and see no or little support. One day in this year’s tournament, I believe I saw more media, school faculty and coaches and Bobcat Arena security and officials then I saw of alumni and fans in the stands. Maybe this is a crazy idea but what if people actually attended the game? Do you think that would encourage a team to play harder? I don’t know, I guess that’s just a wild idea.

So many african americans have an opportunity to support the tournament and the schools regular season games and other athletics but they don’t. Dollars put back into the school you attended is like drafting a kid to play on your team. It’s an investment into the school, faculty, players, coaches, expansion of the institution or investment into research, cirriculum or or other things that enhance the school and helps the school grow. Like in life, it doesn’t always take monetary support to show support however. People need encouragement, a pat on the back or even a pep talk. They need to hear a cheer from the crowd, the boo of a bad call and the elation of victory. It’s that too much too ask? The same people who spend their dollars in someone’s club, concert or comedy show rather than re-investing in their alma mater, are the same hypocrits that complaint when they hear the rumors or reality of their alma mater closing their doors because they lack the funds or the alumni to come back to help raise the funds. No support. The lasting affects can be devistating. Devistating to the school, the athletic department, to scholarships and other athletic programs that are funded through basketball or football. The affects can be tragic to this country.

Look at Winston Salem State University. This was the Rams final year in the CIAA as they move up(and I dont know why) to Division I going over to the MEAC beginning next year. In an emotional effort, the Rams men and women’s teams both battled hard in the tournament only to fall short. The women loss in the opening round and the men in the quarter finals. You would think because of the historic ramification and finality of their final run in the tournament, that more of their fans and alumni would come to their games and support them. They didn’t. Some people came because they are Rams fans to the end and they really enjoy the basketball, but most are too busy either buying the clothes to go out to party, getting ready to go out to party or already partying at the time of the game. I had one young lady tell me that she was going to Charlotte strictly to party and she would not be attending any games period. She also said she only attended this particular HBC because she couldnt afford another school and if she could do it all over, she would. The school did nothing for her she said.

That seems to be the mentality with some that have attended HBCU’s. They feel that they didnt get anything out of the school or they done enough for the school in the past. Enough is never enough. Not spending money in support of events such as the CIAA Tournament keeps money out of the school’s pocket and in to some other’s that are out to make a buck. Attending the games shows the men and women on the court how much you care about them and the uniforms of the schools they wear with pride. Pride? That’s a crazy idea right?

I speak to you of this not only because I care about the game of basketball, sports or the players and coaches who particpate even though that is a secondary reason. I speak to you about this because I fear extinction. The extinction of HBCU’s, and their tradition and the history. The fear that one day no one will care about who wins or loses which means no one will care about the athletics of the school which leads to little or no athletic scholarships for young men and women who use and utilize these athletic scholarships as a tool to get into college to get an education.

Finally, I come from an area of the country where we don’t have any “Historically Black Anything” for the most part with the exception of the kind of history you may find in your history books on slavery, war or famous inventors(Taking nothing away from those particular things of course). If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would have attended a HBCU and would have been proud of it. Circumstances took me in another direction. For those who have, im envious. Envious because you are a select group men and women who are attached to institutions that meant so much to so many in the past. Those who fought in died to have them and attend them. Those who wanted to see african americans prosper as graduates of the school and the professors and educators who teach them.

Think about the HBCU you attended. All the school spirit and pride you had and expressed as rivals and friends of other schools. Think about this for the 62nd annual CIAA Tournament in Charlotte next year and what it really means to be among the elite that wore the jersey, cheerleading uniform or school colors when you attended the school. Think. Think long and hard of the re-investing with your pockets, mind and spirit. Think about the fun, learning and relationships you made that has lasted a lifetime.

Think about all of the positives of the school you can from your past before the school you attended is A THING OF THE PAST.

Oh by the way, as an afterthought which seems appropiate for this topic, the 3 time defending champion Shaw Lady Bears defeated the home team lady Golden Bulls 53-50 and Va Union men’s team beat Johnson C. Smith 71-64 to win their third straight CIAA Tournament Championship.