After notifying the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference of its decision to exit after 10 years, Claflin University announced Wednesday that it is joining the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) commencing July, 1, 2018.
Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said the decision to move to the conference -- headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. -- was made after careful consideration of potential benefits.
“We believe this is a win-win situation for the university and our student-athletes,” Tisdale said. “The CIAA aligns with our institutional profile and the proximity of its members to Orangeburg is very attractive for our alumni and supporters.”
Claflin raised its athletic program profile when it became an NCAA Division II member in 2008 and concurrently joined the SIAC. Claflin sponsors men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, and men’s and women’s cross country.
A plethora of championship trophies and banners adorn the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center, the university’s indoor athletic facility. Since joining the SIAC, Claflin has won volleyball, baseball, softball and men’s basketball championships. An impressive number of student-athletes have won top individual honors, including an Olympic qualifier.
“It is my pleasure to welcome Claflin University’s administration, student-athletes, staff, alumni and fans to the CIAA,” said Jacqie McWilliams, CIAA commissioner. “The institution is a fit for our conference based on their location within our demographic region and commitment to sponsoring sports programs that bring competitive and championship growth in the CIAA.
"They will expand our footprint into the South Carolina market and reinforce our commitment to the student-athlete experience and employ strategies that engage alumni and fans within the region to support our mission and vision."
CIAA Board of Directors Chair and Fayetteville State University Chancellor Dr. James A. Anderson echoed the comments from McWilliams.
“The CIAA is committed to sponsoring a range of male and female sports programs that bring competitive and championship growth within the conference and to the regions that all our participating schools represent,” Anderson said. “The CIAA will seek to sponsor additional men’s sports like baseball and tennis to maintain a healthy number of automatic qualifications.
"The addition of Claflin University allows the conference to facilitate this goal while expanding our geographical footprint.”
Tisdale said, "This is a new day for Claflin University.”
“We look forward to continuing our success in athletics with all the administrative support we can provide," he said. "Our student-athletes deserve nothing less.”
Founded in 1912, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is the first collegiate African-American athletic conference and one of the most recognized conferences in Division II. The CIAA conducts 14 championships attended by more than 150,000 fans from around the country.
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the CIAA is governed by the presidents and chancellors of its 12 member-institutions:
- Bowie State University (Bowie, Maryland)
- Chowan University (Murfreesboro, N.C.)
- Elizabeth City State University (Elizabeth City, N.C.)
- Fayetteville State University (Fayetteville, N.C.)
- Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C.)
- Lincoln University of Pennsylvania (Oxford, Pennsylvania)
- Livingstone College (Salisbury, N.C.)
- Saint Augustine's University (Raleigh, N.C.)
- Shaw University (Raleigh, N.C.)
- Virginia State University (Ettrick, Virginia)
- Virginia Union University (Richmond, Virginia)
- Winston-Salem State University (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
All 12 CIAA member programs currently sponsor football.
But Claflin officials told The Times and Democrat on Wednesday there are no plans to reinstate football as a sponsored intercollegiate sport now or anytime soon.
Claflin fielded a football team decades ago. The last football game for the "Fighting Panthers" was a homecoming contest against rival Savannah State College on Nov. 21, 1964 on Alumni Field, where the current Tullis Arena was later constructed.
Ironically, Savannah State University (which has sponsored a football team through 2017) is currently transitioning from NCAA Division I membership in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to rejoin the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the NCAA Division II ranks after leaving the SIAC 20 years ago. Savannah State's last Division I football game on Nov. 18, 2017, was a 34-10 home win against South Carolina State University.
For more information on the CIAA, visit theciaa.com.