2023 CIAA tournament

CIAA presidents promote school brands during tournament

The CIAA Tournament isn’t just a chance to promote basketball. It’s a chance for these HBCUs to sell their institutions to a new audience.

BALTIMORE, MD — The CIAA Tournament in Baltimore is over for the year, but the presidents and chancellors of the conference’s 12 schools are hoping there is a year-long residual impact. 

While the basketball teams battled it out on the court, CIAA presidents and chancellors were out promoting their institutions along with their recruiting arms. Several of the conference’s chancellors made media appearances highlighting what their universities have to offer beyond basketball. 

Elizabeth City State won the women’s basketball tournament on Saturday. But that was icing on the cake as Dr. Karrie Dixon and her administration spent the week pounding the pavement letting students in Baltimore know about just what they have to offer it. That includes the school’s aviation program, which helps provide transportation to the CIAA for ECSU students. 

“We are the only university in North Carolina to offer a four-year degree in Aviation Science,” Dr. Dixon said. “One exciting thing is that our students actually fly our aircraft here to the CIAA for the career fair. Because we want them to know — all students in the area to know — when they come to the career fair that being a pilot doesn’t have to be a dream it can become a reality.”

The conference held its annual High School Education Day on Tuesday, sponsored by the US Army ROTC. That allowed students from local high schools to get exposure to what these 12 institutions had to offer. That’s the same thing that happened in Charlotte and other stops. The difference here is that only one of the schools in the conference — Bowie State — is in Maryland. That means that students got exposure to 11 other schools that may have known little to nothing about.

CIAA, Makola Abdullah, Virginia State
Virginia State University President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah enjoys basketball at the 2023 CIAA Tournament.

Many of those institutions are small, private institutions that must recruit beyond state lines in order to keep their enrollment up and their doors open. 

One of those institutions is St. Augustine’s University, located four hours down the road in Raleigh. Like Dr. Dixon, SAU President Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail is hoping students will be open to the possibilities that HBCUs like hers and others have to offer. 

“Don’t take the bait about impossibility,” Johnson McPhail said. “Impossibility is something that little minds talk about.”

Claflin University, located in Orangeburg, SC, is the furthest school from Baltimore. Its president —  Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack — can speak to what it’s like to be a student from an urban area and come to the rural south. 

“I went from Detroit to rural Mississippi, and it changed my life forever.” 

Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Elwood Robinson, like Chancellor Dixon, got a chance to cut down the nets as his men’s basketball program claimed its 13th CIAA title. 

“So many outstanding individuals went to HBCUs and for us to be in Baltimore is just tremendous in Charm City — the rich tradition,” Robinson said.

CIAA presidents promote school brands during tournament
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