It#8217;s official: CU football to CIAA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HAMPTON, Va. – The worst-kept secret in college football was made public late Monday.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) officially announced the addition of Chowan University to its conference as a football-only member.

“Chowan University is thrilled at the opportunity to become a part of the CIAA football culture,” CU President Dr. M. Chris White said. “We look forward to developing a relationship with the conference and its athletic programs.”

The long-rumored alliance between the two entities was confirmed by Monday’s press release and was addressed by Chowan University Head Football Coach Lorick Atkinson during his weekly press conference.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our football program,” Atkinson said. “The CIAA has a great history. Now we have the opportunity to go out and compete for a conference championship and a national championship.”

The coach stressed that having the opportunity to compete for championships would help him and his staff on the recruiting trail.

Another positive for the Hawks, Atkinson said, would be developing natural rivalries with nearby teams such as Elizabeth City State University.

Atkinson also said he felt his team would be able to compete in the CIAA, pointing to their last-second loss to CIAA member St. Paul’s College as proof they could compete.

“We feel like we can be competitive sooner rather than later,” he said. “We showed that two weeks ago when we were five seconds away from beating one of the teams in the CIAA.”

For his part, Chowan Athletic Director Dennis Helsel said there were many reasons the union between Chowan football and the CIAA made sense.

“I’m a firm believer that football is the hardest area in the NCAA to compete in as an independent,” Helsel said.

He said independents had a tougher time earning post-season bids and pointed to the fact the selection committee is made up of conference representatives.

The second area of help comes with scheduling with the Hawks now having seven games per year that will automatically be a part of their schedule.

“We have a tougher schedule this year than we owe our coaches and players,” he said. “Because we are an independent, trying to get teams to play us on certain dates is a full-time job.

“For our football team to get better, we need to help them with both scheduling and the development of rivalries,” he added.

The final area of assistance Helsel addressed was the guaranteed help in recruiting by simply getting the Chowan University name in markets that have been difficult for them to penetrate in the past.

“Our affiliation with the CIAA will get the Chowan University name in cities that are hotbeds for football,” he said. “Some of them are places we have never been able to get our name in before.”

Some of those areas Helsel included on that list were Charlotte, Raleigh and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“If our name gets in front of D-II caliber players, we have a better chance of getting them to come here,” he added.

Helsel said the groundwork for the marriage between Chowan football and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association began in January, but became earnest in May. No decisions were reached by either party until August.

As Chowan finished the transition from National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III to Division II, the AD said he knew a lot was resting on that paperwork. If the transition was approved, he knew some type of conference affiliation was possible.

“Did I know it was going to happen? No, I didn’t,” he said. “I did know that if we were blessed as a D-II, we had a very good opportunity.”

Chowan becomes the first non-historically black college to be affiliated with the CIAA, but that isn’t a concern for the university or the conference.

“Our vision for the CIAA is to grow all aspects of the conference including educational synergies, athletic competition and to create a dynamic mixture of culture, history and geographic relevance,” CIAA Commissioner Leon G. Kerry said. “We feel that Chowan University joining our football program is a great step on that path.”

The CIAA board was equally pleased with the addition.

“The CIAA member institutions are excited to have Chowan University and the Hawks join the conference’s football member teams,” said. Dr. Dianne B. Suber, the chair of the CIAA board of directors. “Chowan University’s membership affirms the CIAA’s commitment to building a diverse and competitive conference and represents a new chapter in the CIAA’s history of blazing new trails and raising the bar in NCAA Division II sports.”

The Hawks will officially join the CIAA for the 2008 season.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is an athletic conference consisting of 10 historically African-American institutions of higher education: Bowie State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Livingstone College, St. Augustine’s College, St. Paul’s College, Shaw University, Virginia State University and Virginia Union University, all working together to set an overall standard of excellence.

Established in 1912, the CIAA is the nation’s oldest black athletic conference, rich in history and heritage. The CIAA is entering its 93rd year of athletic competition.

The presence of the CIAA as a premiere member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II, continues to expand throughout the country. Expansion of television broadcasts has resulted in nationwide coverage of football and basketball contests, as well as the annual CIAA Basketball Tournament.

Increasing competitiveness in other sports is also leading to recognition of CIAA member schools as athletic powerhouses. The reputation, in conjunction with the academic success of its athletes, is a proud legacy for the CIAA.

The conference is divided into Eastern and Western Divisions in all sports except football and baseball.

The CIAA annually sponsors 16 men’s and women’s championships. The eight men’s championships include football, cross country, indoor track, basketball, golf, tennis, baseball, and track & field. The eight women’s champions are bowling, cross country, volleyball, indoor track, basketball, softball, tennis and track & field. The football champion is determined by standings as determined by regular season record.