Happy 100th birthday, CIAA

Editor’s note: The 12-school CIAA celebrates its 100th birthday this year. The alliance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) spans the East Coast from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Beginning in 2005, the NCAA Division II conference reached an agreement with ESPN to televise its men’s and women’s basketball championships as part of the network’s Championship Week coverage. Front Row’s Kim Jarvis and Shannon Cross, both Johnson C. Smith grads, attended the tournaments Feb. 27-March 3 and share their perspectives.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — I’m not sure if anyone else has ever celebrated their 100th anniversary on a grander scale than this year’s CIAA Tournament, which was held in Time Warner Cable Arena.

From the first tip of the annual men’s and women’s college basketball games to the last step show, the six-day event honors the pioneers of the past and crowns the best of the 12-school tournaments.

As an alum of JCSU, I welcomed an opportunity for a vacation in the “Queen City,” and to speak during the Career Development Symposium.

My enthusiasm grew when I realized both JCSU teams qualified for the tournament and some of the games would be on ESPNU, ESPN 3 and WatchESPN. I cheered for the Golden Bulls from the skybox with other alums and Dr. Ronald L. Carter (President of the university), as the women advanced to the finals and the men to the quarterfinals.

Now, I send a full-court pass to fellow JCSU alum and colleague Shannon Cross, ESPN.com’s associate editor and social media correspondent, for her perspective:

My sister Stacee [Cross] is a graduate of Winston Salem State University (WSSU), so of course she was thrilled the men won the CIAA Tournament.

I’m an alumna of the Rams’ conference rival (JCSU) and wasn’t as ecstatic that they won, but I’m certainly glad WSSU is part of the CIAA again. The heart of the CIAA is about great competition and tradition ­and the 100th anniversary of the conference celebrated just that.

Overall, my experience was eye-opening. It’s great to see the tremendous amount of support that’s poured into the CIAA Tournament.

First Lady Michelle Obama’s presence at the women’s finals Friday, March 2 not only raised the level of awareness of the tournament, but it also shared the importance of staying healthy, as she promoted her “Let’s Move!” fitness program.

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