About the CIAA



The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) was founded in 1912 as the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association and is the oldest African-American athletic conference in the nation. Although the membership has changed since 1912, the CIAA consists of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) spanning the east coast from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. The membership: Bowie State University, Chowan University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Livingstone College, St. Augustine’s University, Shaw University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University and Winston-Salem State University is comprised of both private and public colleges and universities with enrollments ranging from 750 to over 7,000 students. Currently, eighty percent of CIAA alumni reside in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

The CIAA is incorporated in the District of Columbia and is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. The conference is headquartered in Hampton, Virginia and is governed by the twelve Presidents and Chancellors of its member institutions.

The conference holds championships annually in the following sports: Men’s and Women’s Cross Country; Volleyball; Football; Men’s and Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Track; Men’s and Women’s Basketball; Women’s Bowling; Men’s and Women’s Tennis; Golf; Baseball and Softball. In addition to its outstanding basketball history, the CIAA pioneered the divisional conference football championship game format. In 1970, after dividing the conference into Northern and Southern Divisions, the CIAA played the first conference football championship game in college football history in Petersburg, Virginia. The first black college football game was also played between CIAA schools, Livingstone and Biddle (now Johnson C. Smith) in 1893.  

Academic success is a staple of the conference. The CIAA recognizes the academic achievement of its student-athletes annually by naming its top student-athletes to the Commissioner’s All-Academic Team. The conference also recognizes the Male and Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year for student-athletes who have excelled on the field and in the classroom.

CIAA student-athletes have achieved success in the professional ranks. Ben Wallace, former basketball standout from Virginia Union University, was named to the 2004 Olympic Team and was instrumental in helping the NBA Detroit Pistons win the 2004 NBA Championship. Charles Oakley also from Virginia Union has played with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors. Darrell Armstrong of Fayetteville State University recently retired from the NBA New Jersey Nets and Ronald Murray of Shaw University currently plays with the NBA Chicago Bulls. Most recently, Greg Toler of St. Paul’s College was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the 31st round of the 2009 NFL draft. 

Former CIAA alumni who found success in professional sports include Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (Winston-Salem State University), Sam Jones (North Carolina Central University), Earl Lloyd (West Virginia State University), and Bobby Dandridge (Norfolk State University). The late John McClendon and C.E. “Big House” Gaines are coaching legends and pioneers.

CIAA alumni list boasts some of the country’s prominent leaders. They include: the late Reginald Lewis (the owner of the first black billion dollar business - Beatrice Foods); the late Maynard Jackson (first black mayor of Atlanta, GA);  Douglas Wilder (first elected black governor - Virginia); Art Shell (the first black NFL head coach in the modern era); and Andrew Young (the first black United States Ambassador to the United Nations).

The CIAA receives significant support from corporate America. Over the past ten years companies such as Coca-Cola USA, Food LionToyotaNationwide, and Russell Athletic, have assisted the conference in securing $10.5 million in scholarship money for the member institutions and an additional $23 million for other championships and television.  With the help of these sponsors, the CIAA can boast its position as the first NCAA Division II conference to have its tournament televised as part of Championship Week on the Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN), the cable television giant.

One of the nation’s premier sporting events is the annual CIAA Basketball Tournament. Touted as the third most attended basketball tournament among all NCAA divisions, the first tournament was a 2,000 seat sellout in Washington, D.C. The CIAA Tournament recorded consecutive sellouts in the 20,000 seat RBC Center, located in Raleigh, NC when the city was awarded the event in 2000 and 2003.  The 2011 CIAA Tournament, in its sixth year in the “Queen City”, Charlotte, NC, boasted over 190,000 fans during the course of the week, while making an economic impact of over $44.3 million.  Since the year 2000, the CIAA has generated over $266.06 million in economic impact for the state of North Carolina and over $16.5 million in overall scholarship dollars for CIAA member institutions.

Tournament Week offers events for every social palate including parties, numerous educational and healthy-livings components, step shows and a battle of the bands. The men’s and women’s tournaments are held simultaneously and their respective championship games are on Saturday night.

The CIAA has received national recognition by being featured in EBONY magazine for six consecutive years, USA Today (front page cover story) and in Essence magazine. The Tournament has also been an annual staple of the Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner Morning Shows.

The CIAA Tournament is televised into more than 57 million homes nationwide.  In 2005, the conference partnered with ESPN, which included coverage on ESPN Classic, ESPN Plus and ESPN In-Game.  ESPN reaches over 99.5 million homes. 

For the 2010 tournament, the CIAA entered into a first-ever partnership with TV One, a television network that chronicles African-American culture and achievement, to broadcast the men’s quarterfinals and semifinal rounds.

The CIAA is undoubtedly celebrated as a conference of “firsts”.  Its innate spirit of ingenuity and innovation continues to keep the CIAA in the forefront; blazing trails for other conferences to follow. As the CIAA celebrates 100 years of excellence in athletic competition, the conference and its member institutions continue to build on the rich and honorable traditions of its past; while providing leadership into the future.