The CIAA and Claflin University made it official today, the Panthers are leaving the SIAC to join the CIAA. As first reported by HBCU Gameday, Claflin is making the jump after a ten-year stay in the SIAC dating back to 2008. Claflin will join the CIAA as a full member effective July 1, 2018. The newest CIAA member will be eligible for competition for the 2018-19 academic year.
— CIAA (@CIAAForLife) March 14, 2018
“It is my pleasure to welcome Claflin University’s student-athletes, administration, staff, alumni, and fans to the CIAA,” said Jacqie McWilliams, CIAA Commissioner. “The institution is a fit for our conference based on their location within our demographic region and commitment to sponsoring sports programs that bring competitive and championship growth in the CIAA. They will expand our footprint into the South Carolina market, reinforce our commitment to the student-athlete experience and employ strategies that engage alumni and fans within the region to support our mission and vision.”
Dr. Jerome Fitch, Director of Athletics at Claflin, joined the HBCU Gameday podcast less than an hour after the announcement was made. He said the move to the CIAA was mainly based on improving the financial position of Claflin.
“We believe this is a win-win situation for the University and our student-athletes,” said Claflin University President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale. “The CIAA aligns with our institutional profile and the proximity of its members to Orangeburg is very attractive for our alumni and supporters.”
Panther Fans It's OFFICIAL!!!! https://t.co/XYQJlNHwD4
— Claflin Athletics (@ClaflinPanthers) March 14, 2018
Claflin leaves on top
Claflin will leave the SIAC behind while still on top in men’s basketball. Ricky Jackson’s team won its first ever SIAC Championship less than two weeks ago in Birmingham, Alabama, beating the top two seeds along the way.
Claflin currently participates in four men’s sports: Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country and Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field. On the women’s side there is Basketball, Cross Country, Softball, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field and Volleyball.
Claflin is the first addition to the conference since Lincoln (PA) University re-joined in 2010.
Claflin does not play football and is the only current CIAA school without it. The CIAA solved that problem last year when it opened the door to accept future schools without football programs. That new sponsorship policy was approved at the CIAA’s 2017 spring meeting, which allows a non-football school to become a full member.
Feedback on our Facebook page, though a limited sample size, seemed largely positive in regards to the move. Facebook user Primes Woodruff, who identifies himself as a Claflin alum said the following, “If we do this, this would mean a whole new relevance in Sports, we’ve made the moves to get the Money, the name, the Campus, the Students, the Academic excellence.. the CIAA with these amazing schools would mean so much.”
Facebook user Quincy Dinnerson had this to say,” Wow interesting, they won’t have to travel to Ohio nor Kentucky maybe Benedict will join. Hopefully, it’s cheaper to drive to NC & VA.”