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CIAA close to deciding whether to move basketball tournaments out of Charlotte

People say events surrounding popular tournaments would suffer greatly

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) will decide this week whether its popular men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be moved to another city or whether they will remain in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they have been held for the past six years.

A news conference announcing the decision – prompted by North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 (HB2) public accommodations measure – will be held before the end of the week in Charlotte, according to Bri Funte, assistant director of communications for the CIAA.

The decision will come after the CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams and the CIAA board of chancellors and presidents from the 12 schools held meetings on Thursday.

Of chief concern, at least two of the schools’ leaders said publicly, was the amount of money the schools stand to lose – with estimates as high as $1 million at one school – if the tournament is moved. In total, conference schools combined could lose $6 million and possibly more, considering possible deposits lost on venues for scholarship fundraisers for some schools.

Shaw University president Tashni-Ann Dubroy told The Undefeated that chancellors and presidents “are under immense pressure” to make the right call. “Not only because they are highly cognizant of what the outcome of this decision will have on CIAA athletes, current students, alumni fan base and coaches,” she said, “but also on the external community.

“It remains a topic that has its complexities,” Dubroy added. “And it was a passionate dialogue.”

At Livingstone College in Salisbury, State Alexander, executive assistant to the president and director of public relations at the school, said he had not directly spoken with college president Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. about the deliberations.

Alexander stressed that the commissioner and the board want to speak with a united voice at the news conference but he acknowledged a tense situation.

“It’s got to be weighing heavily on their minds and spirits, I’m sure,” Alexander said. “It’s a tough piece to deal with.”

The CIAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are scheduled to be held Feb. 20-25, 2017, in Charlotte, bringing $55 million and 150,000 visitors to the Queen City.

Discussion about moving the tournament heated up earlier this month when the NCAA and ACC announced they were pulling planned athletic events from the state, after business and entertainers had already scuttled planned ventures and play dates in Charlotte.

The reason: House Bill 2. It mandates that people must use restrooms consistent with the gender on their birth certificate and it nullified an LBGT-friendly Charlotte law that people could use the restrooms of the gender that they identify with.

HB2 could cost North Carolina as $5 billion in business, athletic and entertainment events, facilities and federal funding, according to a UCLA study.

One early casualty was the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, which has been relocated to New Orleans.

Fayetteville State University chancellor James Anderson told his trustees last Thursday that his school could lose as much $1 million because of potential forfeits of contracts associated with school-sponsored events, according to the Fayetteville Observer.

Dubroy, president at Shaw, discussed the issue in a column posted to the website HBCU Digest.

“There are no easy answers, or minimal costs in the choices we have to make,” Dubroy said. “All of them, along with the conflict faced by the CIAA, are knotted within a common thread of economic disparities that, for too long, have harshly persisted for communities of color. Families fight for economic autonomy; schools fight for investment; communities fight for growth.”

Ola Hill, president of Original Circle of Friends, one of many groups that hold scholarship fundraising events, said that changing the location of the tournament “would be devastating at a minimum.”

“It’s going to have a trickle-down effect,” said Hill, an alumnae of former CIAA member North Carolina Central University. “Most people plan a year in advance for this event.”

One of Hill’s concerns is the scholarship dollars that potentially could be lost. Hill said her 25-year-old group organized the original “day party,” an event that has grown to 2,500 paid guests and generates $50,000 in scholarships to HBCUs, about one-fourth to CIAA students.

Several other service and civic organizations also hold scholarship fundraisers, besides the numerous other parties, concerts and events held during the week.

Hill believes a move might be financially devastating to the conference and its schools.

“I’m not sure the CIAA has the resources or the capacity to negotiate another location in such a short time frame,” she said. “Personally, I understand and I support the strategy of organizations pulling out. You have to make a stand. I just don’t think they [CIAA schools] have the resources. … We’re waiting with bated breath to see what the decision is.”

Meanwhile, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), the other historically black college and university conference with schools and events in North Carolina, is “currently reviewing the situation,” according to MEAC commissioner Dennis E. Thomas.

MEAC spokesman Ryan McGinty said the only league event slated for North Carolina in 2017 is the Outdoor Track and Field Championships at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro.

David Squires is an educator and digital journalist who lives in the Charlotte area and teaches journalism at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He has covered HBCU sports for several decades, first with the St. Petersburg Times and later as editor-in-chief of the original BlackVoices.com and BVQ magazine. He has also worked in news and sports in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Fort Worth and Hampton Roads. His passion is college basketball, and he is a die-hard Tar Heel -- born and bred.