Editorial: Marquee attraction tips off

Feb. 25, 2013 @ 06:51 PM

Tobacco Road’s largest shadows in our state’s sports world are likely to always be cast by the rivalry of blue teams separated by a few miles of U.S. 15-501. They are part of the nation’s premier basketball league which counts four members from the Old North State, and in a couple of weeks that league stages its 60th basketball tournament extravaganza.

But in Charlotte today, an even older hoops tournament is getting under way. As a Division II league, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association plays more under the radar. But it will squarely hit Charlotte this week with nearly 200,000 fans and an economic impact expected to exceed $40 million.

It is, by far, more than just a basketball event and radar can’t miss it. It is a social gathering for historically black colleges and universities with events beyond basketball aplenty, including a step show throwdown.

The CIAA has a long and proud history, having begun 100 years ago in the fall of 1912. Legends have been plentiful ever since.

It is where educations were received by Reginald Lewis (billion-dollar food business Beatrice Foods), Maynard Jackson (first black mayor of Atlanta), Douglas Wilder (first black governor of Virginia) and Andrew Young (first black U.S. ambassador to the U.N.). It is where sports greats received tutelages, like Art Shell (first black NFL head coach), and the NBA’s Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Sam Jones, Earl Lloyd, Bobby Dandridge and more recently Olympian Ben Wallace.

While everyone was watching Dean Smith chase down Adolph Rupp’s NCAA coaching wins record in the 1990s, the Tar Heels’ head coach first had to pass the CIAA guy from Winston-Salem State, Clarence “Big House” Gaines and his 828 victories between 1946 and 1993.

The CIAA history is rich, and many in Vance County have connections to the league’s members. As the league hosts one of the South’s greatest annual reunions this week in the Queen City, we wish them well not only for the coming days, but also for another 100 years.