When history talks about the 1967 season in terms of HBCU basketball, you’ll likely only hear of only one player and team: Earl Monroe and Winston-Salem State. But what many people don’t know, is that while WSSC went on to win the NCAA’s College Division (Division II) Title, it didn’t win its own conference tournament.
The 1966-67 CIAA Tournament title went to Winston-Salem’s archrivals, North Carolina A&T. The Aggies had a pretty successful season, going 15-5 in the regular season. Two of its losses were to small college powers Guilford and Akron. Its third was an early season matchup against Johnson C. Smith. But the two most frustrating losses came at the hands of Winston-Salem, as the Aggies fell short in both regular season matchups to Big House Gaines, Earl Monroe and the Rams.
The first matchup took place in January at the Greensboro Coliseum in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 6,000 fans. The Aggies came into the game ranked 16th in the College Division, and they gave the top-ranked Rams all they could handle, as they needed every one of Earl Monroe’s 38 points (which was four below his regular season average) to come away with an 87-85 win.
The second matchup was a wild one as well. The Ram took a 53-28 lead into halftime, but the Aggies roared back with a 65 point second half, but it was too little, too late, as the Rams held on for a 103-92 win. Monroe scored 48 points on 17 of 25 shooting from the field, while Sylvester Adams led the Aggies with 33 points.
The Aggies would go on to finish the regular season at 15-5, which earned them a fourth-seed in the CIAA Tournament. A&T kicked off the tournament by beating Maryland State (UMES) 85-78. And of course, waiting in the wings were Monroe and the Rams, fresh off a win over Hampton Institute.
The third time would be the charm for the Aggies, as they stifled Monroe and came away with a resounding 102-85 win, handing the Rams their first and only loss of the season.
“Then it came–the most wonderful sound that ever fell upon the ear of an Aggie. The victory bell was ringing, loud and clear, and it was known by all that the Aggies had overwhelmed the mighty Rams in the CIAA Tournament, the biggest game of the season.”
A&T would go on to beat Howard in the title game to clinch its fifth, and final CIAA title. And the rest, they say, is history. Winston-Salem State would go on to run the table, winning the NCAA title as Monroe finished off his legendary college career and went on to NBA stardom.
A&T left with a large chunk of the CIAA to start the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, severing a tie that lasted for decades. Today, many students have no idea that A&T used to even be in the CIAA, unless they’ve bothered to look up to the rafters.