By J. K. Schmid, AFRO Baltimore Staff

The country’s oldest African-American athletic conference announced it will be moving during an event at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Jan. 8.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is coming to Baltimore, in 2021.

“This is Baltimore’s Super Bowl,” said Al Hutchinson, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore.

The CIAA has spent the last 15 years in Charlotte, N.C.

The mascot and cheerleaders from Bowie State University were on hand for the announcement of the CIAA athletic conference’s move to Baltimore. Al Hutchinson, CEO of Visit Baltimore is at the podium making the announcement. (Photo: J.K. Schmid)

Five cities were under consideration by CIAA executives including Norfolk, Va., among others.

“It was pretty clear that Baltimore had done its homework, it was really clear that Baltimore was ready to assume the mantle of being a host city,” said Dr. James A. Anderson, Director of CIAA and Chancellor, Fayetteville State University in Va.

“It wasn’t just a decision about an athletic conference moving, it wasn’t just a decision about individual institutions, it was a business decision,” Anderson said. “Also, a business decision about what’s best for the CIAA and what’s best for the city of Baltimore. And we got the feeling that you wanted us in your future.”

Anderson went on to attribute much of the decision to Mayor Catherine Pugh’s role as Baltimore’s “No. 1 cheerleader.”

Jacqie McWilliams, Commissioner of the CIAA attributed part of the decision to Baltimore’s uniquely central location among historic HBCUs such as Virginia Union, Lincoln and Howard Universities. The new location will allow Maryland’s own Bowie State University to serve as host school.

Each speaker emphasized the united effort involved in the move, including Pugh, who also went through the numbers about what Baltimore means for the CIAA and vice versa.

“This industry does a lot of great work,” Pugh said of Visit Baltimore. “And for those that don’t know, I think the numbers speak for themselves: 26 million visitors came to the greater Baltimore Area last year. Visitors spent some 6.7 Billion dollars, this industry supports 85,000 jobs, many of which are held right here in our city,” Pugh added. “We need to give people a reason to come to Baltimore, not just for conferences and conventions. The CIAA provides a wonderful opportunity to do just that.”

But there may be benefits with culture and community also.

“If you have not been to a CIAA conference, it’s more than just basketball,” Pugh said. “It’s events like the education day, the career expo and the fan festival … This is what really does excite me about the CIAA Tournament: The opportunity to contribute to the education of so many young athletes in our HBCUs.”

“The CIAA is a passion, it is a tradition,” Pugh added.

The move could reverse the typical economic slump that comes this time every new year to Baltimore also.

“The CIAA Men and Women’s Tournament is an impactful event any time of the year, but especially during the traditional need period for Baltimore City: The last week of February, when hotels and restaurants and museum attractions are suffering,” Hutchinson said. “Business is not there. This is a tremendous opportunity for the hospitality and tourism community.”

“I’d like to say as a resident born and bred in Washington, D.C., It is so good to be home,” Anderson said.