BALTIMORE — The CIAA tournament has officially tipped off.
"This is a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful moment, not only for the CIAA but for the city of Baltimore," said Clyde Doughty Jr., Bowie State Vice President of Athletics & Recreation.
"We feel like we belong here. So, I hope Baltimore feels the love that they are giving us that we are giving it back in return," added CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams.
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tourney games are underway inside Royal Farms Arena to determine which of the 12 schools from the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities athletic conference in the country will be crowned champion and head to the Division II NCAA Tournament. Intense, emotional basketball will be on display all week long.
"You are going to see resilience. You’re going to see pride and you’re going to see community," said McWilliams.
Between Tuesday and Saturday a dozen men’s teams and a dozen women’s teams from Pennsylvania to South Carolina will compete. On those rosters include plenty of players coming home like Randi Neal from Joppatowne. She is a freshman forward for Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.
"I’m super excited. As soon as I saw the flier come out, that it said Baltimore, my mom is calling saying, 'Oh you know the tournament is going to be in Baltimore'. I’m happy," she said. "My family that lives here gets to come to the games and see me. So, I was just really excited all year."
Local business owners should be excited too. About $50 million is expected to be pumped into the city by over 100,000 visitors.
"We’ve partnered with a lot of African-American small business owners. We are going to be pushing people to all of those small businesses. So, we want our fans to really support the small businesses in Baltimore, especially the black-owned businesses," said Al Hutchinson, President & CEO of Visit Baltimore.
Bowie State University is the host of the tournament this year. Their women’s team is the No. 3 seed and plays on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. The Bulldogs men’s team is the No. 10 seed and tips off Tuesday at 8:50 p.m.