For the last several years, I, along with a myriad of attendees from across the nation, have enjoyed the festivities at the CIAA Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina. The CIAA Tourament is a conference-wide basketball tournament consisting of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) from around the region. Every year, Charlotte is showered with about 47 million in revenue between all the parties and happenings going on throughout the city. This year was the first year I elected not to participate in the pandemonium and I was quite enlightened by my objective bird’s eye view of the week’s events.

It seems as though we have lost ourselves along the way. Many times, even in our own personal pursuits, we get caught up in status only to forget substance. Charlotte has flirted with All-American city super stardom for the last 15 years, stumbling behind Atlanta and New York in our quest for identity like a newborn fawn. We have forgotten to embrace what makes Charlotte unique trying to emulate the success of other markets. It was never the flashing lights or star power that made the Queen City worthy of it’s majestic nickname. We have a long and proud heritage of blue collar work ethic and sports greatness, all the more reason to embrace the culture that CIAA Tournament is all about.

The tournament holds steadily as the third most attended basketball tournament among all NCAA divisions. The first tournament was a 2,000 seat sellout in Washington, D.C., followed by consecutive sellouts in the 20,000 seat RBC Center, located in Raleigh, NC when the city was awarded the event in 2000. Since then, the focus has shifted to the partying rather than the purpose. How do we return the tournament to it’s former glory? Though it has proven profitable for the city of Charlotte, the actual organization has not experienced the same financial success. Since the year 2000, the CIAA has generated over $266.06 million in economic impact for the state of North Carolina but only a little over $16.5 million in overall scholarship dollars for CIAA member institutions. That ratio is grossly lopsided.

It is time for the cultural aspect that once helped the tournament rise to the prominence it has achieved currently, to return to center stage. I feel that without an overhaul of sorts, the substance and the history that this tournament is built upon will continue to deteriorate. Let us not get lost in the flashing lights, but continue the legacy that earned us that spotlight in the first place.