CIAA looks to 100th champion

Published 2:43 pm Friday, July 20, 2012

ETTRICK, VA – “One century down.”

And maybe many more to go.

That’s the theme of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – one of the oldest NCAA Division II conferences in the country – for its 2012 football season.

When the league crowns its champion in November, it will mark the 100th year of CIAA football.

Thursday, on the campus of Virginia State University, the league not only unveiled this year’s theme, but also named its Pre-season All-CIAA team, the predicted order of finish among member schools, and each coach commented of their upcoming season.

“We are looking forward to another outstanding year in the CIAA”, said interim commissioner Peggy Davis. “This is the CIAA’s 100thyear of football, and this season’s champion will have the honor of being crowned in this historic year.”

The year that capped off the last 99 wasn’t too shabby for the league either.

Three CIAA programs made it to the postseason in 2011 with Winston-Salem State making it all the way to the NCAA Division II eastern championship before falling to Wayne State, while Elizabeth City State was a first-round participant.

Meanwhile, Johnson C. Smith of Charlotte won the 13th annual Pioneer Bowl over Miles College in Columbus, Georgia.

While Elizabeth City State is predicted to make a return trip to Durham County Stadium on November 10, locally, Chowan University just hopes to improve on their second straight 3-7 mark.

The Hawks are predicted to finish fifth in the six-team Northern Division and tenth overall.

“We’re in rarified air,” said fifth year Chowan coach Tim Place. “This year it’s expectations versus the process.

“We’re not talking about potential and possibilities, we’re talking about expectations,” he added. “We’ve come a long way, and this year we need to be more consistent.  (Chancellor) Dr. White and (athletic director) Dennis Helsel have put us in great position to improve.”

Chowan’s senior wide receiver and Newport News, Va. native, Robert Holland, was picked to repeat as an all-conference first-teamer.

In 2011, Holland led the CIAA in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, hauling in 69 catches for 943 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Holland’s 13 touchdown grabs broke the previous single-season school record of ten and he already owns the Chowan career receptions and career receiving yards records, and broke the record for career receiving touchdowns early last season.

“He’s matured on the field, he’s matured off the field,” said Place. “He’s come a long way. He’s put the effort in, he’s committed himself and he’s dedicated himself.”

Place also said, despite sitting out the spring Blue-and-White game, second-year quarterback Cameron Stover is expected to be ready by the September 1 opener at Livingstone College in Salisbury.

“If we can keep him healthy,” cautioned Place. “He can run, he can throw and it’s going to be up to the offensive line to do their job.

“We’re getting bigger and becoming more of a CIAA-type line and that’s a credit to my staff, our conditioning, and our recruiting,” he said. “We’ve got to start and we’ve got to finish from a defensive perspective and we’ve got to become more consistent on special teams.”

Some other coaches kept things light and in perspective.

“Somebody has to say something because they have to have a preseason pick, but it doesn’t move me much, but I think my guys are going to have an attitude about it,” said Virginia Union coach Michael Bailey, whose team was picked ninth. “We’re not a No. 9 team in this conference. We feel like we’re top four, but we have to prove it.”

Elizabeth City State coach Waverly Tillar, always a media favorite because of his quips, was entertaining as usual

“The Viking ship is just going to keep on sailing,” he said referring to an ECSU schedule that includes Newberry College and perennial D-II powers, Delta State and Albany State; and a roster that includes touted “Player of the Year” candidate, running back Daronte McNeill.

“Winston-Salem just better be ready,” he said with a grin.

As for the defending CIAA champion Rams, Winston-Salem State finished last season 13-1 and ranked third in the American Football Coaches Association D2 poll.

No surprise they’re picked to win it all again in 2012.

“I don’t know if we have any pressure, but we can’t live off of last year’s performance,” Rams coach Connell Maynor said.