The New CIAA?

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: February 24, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — On Monday night, The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) opened their 63rd Annual Basketball Tournament. A week-long celebration of hoops, history and fun.

The tournament is the third most successful event of its kind, trailing only the ACC and SEC tournaments. With the recent departure of Winston Salem State University, North Carolina Central and possibly maybe more schools, the strong rumor and talk is that the Conference is looking to replace departing schools with “NON-HBCU” College and Universities.

Yes, a Conference that’s existed for nearly 100 years and was the only choice for many African Americans and people of color before the turbulent Civil right era, looks like they will permit a few College and Universities into the fold despite the title of “Historically Black”.

According to Commissioner Leon Kerry, Chowan University will join the CIAA for football next year only in the fall, making it the first predominately white institution to join a historically black conference.

Kerry is also in talks with UNC-Pembroke, the most diverse public university in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report, about joining the conference.

Yes, the CIAA may have to re-label there Conference as an “HB&WCU'” rather than the traditional “HBCU” Now I know Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, a historically black independent school, will join the Conference in 2009 and the CIAA board has approved an unnamed Southern school for membership.

The addition of Lincoln University is a good move because they were an original CIAA member and because how much black independent schools struggle without the financial assistance of a Conference or Association but one white school to me is one too many.

It’s not racism, it’s realism and a belief in the overall pride I have in HBCU’S.

Why this move to bring in Chowan and UNC Pembroke? Commissioner Kerry says it’s about diversity and fitting in. “We can help them and they can help us,” Kerry says of Chowan and UNC-Pembroke.

“With a Chowan or Pembroke, we talk about getting out of the diversity market and getting into mainstream; they can help us get into mainstream.

For diversity? To entice them by adding a few mainstream Colleges with predominantly white students for economical purposes? The reasons for this move in my opinion if the result turns out to be white schools replacing black schools is a bad one.

One of the great attractions and aspect of the CIAA and others like them is the purity and historical place it holds with African Americans when it comes to higher education.

Attending such schools like Virginia Union, Johnson C. Smith, Shaw University, Fayetteville State and others is the fact that young African Americans can learn about there people, there culture and get a true meaning, understanding and education of African Americans who struggled and succeeded in the past.

It allows them to relate and connect with those who paved the way from exclusion to inclusion in modern day higher education. It gives young African Americans a chance to really feel a since of pride in there own both in the classrooms and athletics.

Yes I believe in growth, progress, diversity and inclusion, but not at the expense of tradition, history, pride, preservation, blackness, self identity and solidarity especially at a time when few African Americans can take ownership.

Not ownership in a product, store or business because the number of African Americans in that category diminishes further, but ownership in black pride, power and organization (i.e, the CIAA).

It’s all crucial because of so many HBCU’S who are struggling just to keep the doors of learning open because the lack of support from within, NCAA infractions that discourage the best student-athletes from attending, administrators, staff and faculty who undermine the schools both legally and illegally and leaders of the schools who made poor decisions that have profound and long-term negative affects for years to come.

Change can be a good thing and welcomed in certain situations but this is not one of them. You don’t make changes to philosophy and tradition for the sake of change and the pressure from the outside.

You fix your deficiencies and structure on the inside. I’m confident the CIAA welcomes all young people of all races to attend there colleges and universities to achieve there goals through higher learning and compete in the sport of there choice athletically because that’s what attending any college or university is all about.

But inviting primarily white oriented colleges and universities as INSTITUTIONS to benefit from all the prestige and economics that traditional black college and universities are privileged have worked so hard for a century to obtain through blood, sweat, tears and even there lives I think is shameful and disrespectful to many generations of African Americans both past and present and to me does a disservice to what the term “HBCU” really stands for.

Commissioner Kerry’s reasons for the additions of Chowan and UNC Pembroke is to preserve the CIAA’s future and I applaud his “proactive” thinking and it may have some positive affect economically but at the same time it will destroy the history, identity and even quality of the CIAA in the process which is what fans and alumni have come to expect.