November 15, 2013. A day that will live in infamy in the hearts and minds of CIAA and HBCU football fans.
It was supposed to be CIAA football’s crowning moment. It turned out to be its darkest hour.
Two nationally-ranked football teams,Winston-Salem State and Virginia State, were set to battle for the CIAA Championship in Winston-Salem. After years of taking a back seat to basketball, CIAA football was finally going to take center stage for the nation’s oldest conference made up of historically black colleges. Coming on the heels of WSSU’s national championship game appearance, it was the moment officials hoped would signify the conference’s arrival on the D2 national stage.
Only it never happened. And we may never know exactly why.
What we do know is this: The CIAA Championship Game was cancelled after an bathroom altercation at the championship banquet that left one student-athlete (Winston-Salem State quarterback Rudy Johnson) headed for the hospital while another one (Virginia State running back Lamont Britt) headed for the Forsyth County Jail.
The fight made headlines around the sports world, landing on pretty much every major website and national television news.
The CIAA, blindsided by the unexpected set of events, cancelled its championship game. Nearly a year later, no championship has been awarded and will likely never be rewarded. The only other time the conference has not named a football champion was during World War I and II.
Both programs and institutions suffered aftershocks, on-and-off the field. Virginia State was banned from postseason play, and Winston-Salem State lost its shot at a first-round bye in the Division II playoffs. Leaders of the two institution tossed blame back-and-forth for months on end.
Now, we’ve come full circle. The two teams will have once again won their respective divisions, and are scheduled to meet at 1:00 PM in Durham (NC) County Stadium to decide the conference title.
This week, we’ll take a look at the fallout from the game for the players, coaches and institutions involved, as well as review how they got back to the championship game and look at how they’ll match up on the field on Saturday.
Stay tuned for more, and be sure to follow HBCU Gameday on social media for all the latest news.