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So long CIAA … and thanks

The CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) Basketball Tournament ended Saturday with the crowning of its men’s and women’s champion.

And, for the 10th consecutive year, that champion won’t be Chowan University.

This past Monday for the men, and Tuesday for the women, marked the final appearance in the tournament for the Blue-and-White. The Hawk men end their 10-year run at 3-10 in tournament games, and seven of those years were one-and-done. The women did slightly better at 5-10, including making the semi-finals in 2012.

Chowan is moving the bulk of its conference affiliations beginning next season from the CIAA to Conference Carolinas with the exception of football and bowling, which will remain in the old league. Their only chance at a league title in softball is all that remains for this year.

The Hawks’ defection leaves the CIAA still with 12 full members, since Claflin University in South Carolina joined the league as a full-member last summer without football.

Contrary to what I’ve had to point out to relatives in Texas and Florida: despite the CIAA affiliation, Chowan is not an HBCU (historically black college and university). In fact, they’re the first and only non-HBCU in the league’s 107-year history.

“We are grateful to the CIAA for welcoming Chowan with open arms as the first non-HBCU into the conference,” said Hawks Athletics Director Pat Mashuda last spring when the move was first announced. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the CIAA and their members, as well as, continuing our established rivalries within the CIAA. The CIAA has brought and will continue to bring rich and rewarding experiences for our student-athletes and coaches at Chowan.”

That athletic enrichment comes in the teams the Hawks will field in nine Conference Carolinas sports: men’s and women’s soccer, men and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s golf. The CIAA doesn’t sponsor championships for those sports, with the exception of tennis.

“Realigning with Conference Carolinas allows 17 of Chowan’s 19 sponsored sports to compete under one conference umbrella,” Mashuda added.

With the addition of Chowan, Conference Carolinas has now also expanded to 12 schools, which include Belmont Abbey, Lees-McRae, Barton and Mount Olive in North Carolina. The close proximity of the last two (Wilson and Goldsboro, respectively) offer a chance at building a good rivalry; the likes of which they had in their old Atlantic Central and USA South days with schools like Ferrum and Greensboro; or their Region-10 hoop days as a junior college under the legendary Bob Burke.

“It has been a pleasure to have Chowan as a member of the CIAA,” Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said this season. “Due to the growth of their athletic programs we understand their decision to transition to Conference Carolinas for all sports except football and bowling. We look forward to having them as associate members and working with their administration in the upcoming year.”

It hasn’t been a contentious parting at all. The Chowan softball team will play a full 2019 CIAA slate and try to leave with their third consecutive championship and fifth in 10 seasons. The softballers even added some Conference Carolinas teams like Lenoir-Rhyne, Emmanuel, and Erskine to the schedule – perhaps to get more accustomed to travelling south rather than north.

I hope if circumstances allow beginning in 2021, when the tournament moves out of North Carolina for the first time in 26 years, some folks who just love the atmosphere of one of the greatest ‘parties’ in the world, will make it back to Charlotte one more time, and then on to Baltimore – new site of the tournament from 2021-23.

You can ask alums and supporters of some former CIAA member schools, that are now part of other conferences, if that great week of activity in February – wherever it’s conducted – ever goes out of style.

There’s no ‘I hope not’ here; because I know it won’t.

And it shouldn’t.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.