Chowan joins CIAA

Published 6:05 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HAMPTON, VA – Chowan University is officially becoming a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA).

The Murfreesboro-based university was officially voted in as a full member of the conference during a Board of Directors meeting recently and will join the league July 1, 2009. Chowan was already an affiliate member of the CIAA in the sport of football.

“To me, I think it helps us get better,” said Chowan Athletic Director Dennis Helsel. “I think we will also help them get better in certain sports such as softball, baseball and volleyball.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” he added. “Being an independent is not fun. Plus, we have the opportunity for our student-athletes to compete for awards as we’ve already seen in football. That opportunity for notoriety is something we’ve never had.”

Chowan’s admission means the institution will become the first non-HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) admitted to membership in the CIAA. That fact was not lost on Dr. Dianne Boardley 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,” Dr. Suber said.

CIAA Commissioner Leon Kerry said he was proud of the decision to make Chowan a part of the league.

“Today I am very proud of our Board of Directors for taking such a visionary approach to the expansion of this great conference,” Kerry said. “From a competitive standpoint, Chowan offers a natural rivalry for our existing institutions.”

Helsel said Chowan was aware of its unique situation and would endeavor to be good members of the league.

“I think it puts responsibility on us to be a good member,” he said. “We have a responsibility not to commit NCAA violations, to have good game management and those types of things.

“When you do something like this, people will look for reasons to say it’s bad and we cannot give them reasons,” he added.

Chowan, a Christian educational institution founded in northeastern North Carolina in 1848 by Baptist families and named to honor the Native American Algonquin Chawanook tribe, proved to be a perfect match for the CIAA in terms of historical foundation, geography, educational synergies and commitment to its student-athletes.

The Hawks were affirmed as full member Division II members of the NCAA effective last year and have been in the process of working towards conference affiliation since then. They joined in football effective with the current season.

One of the biggest benefits to affiliation with the CIAA will be scheduling. The Hawks have been an independent since leaving the Division III ranks and that has caused numerous scheduling headaches.

“When you get into time for conference play to begin, it’s very hard to schedule games if you’re an independent,” Helsel said. “I think with being a member of the CIAA, that’s one of the great advantages.”

Helsel said football has benefitted from being a member of the league.

“We’re building rivalries. We’re competitive. Our travel costs are less,” Helsel said. “Also, our student-athletes can be recognized on a weekly basis. That, along with our new football coaching staff, has helped us have more people on campus that we have in history.”

The only sports not affected by the decision will be men and women’s soccer. The CIAA does not have a conference in those two sports.

“We’ll try to creatively figure out what we’re going to do,” Helsel said about finding Chowan’s soccer programs a home. “We’ll meet after the season to discuss what our options are.”

Helsel said those options include exploring an affiliate-member relationship with another conference.

Currently, the CIAA has 10 member institutions. They include: Elizabeth City State University, Shaw University, Johnson C. Smith University, Livingstone College, St. Paul’s College, Virginia Union University, Bowie State University, Virginia State University, St. Augustine’s College and Fayetteville State University.

In releasing Chowan’s admission, the CIAA also announced that the board will “continue to evaluate” the admission of Lincoln University in Philadelphia, Pa. for conference including during the spring board meeting.