Commentary: Tournament is a gathering place for old friends

Commentary: Tournament is a gathering place for old friends
March 17
00:00 2016

James B. Ewers Jr.

Guest Columnist

I grew up arguably in the heart of CIAA [Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association] land. Growing up in Winston-Salem gave me a first-hand view of Winston-Salem Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University), one of the original members of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Nearby were other CIAA schools like North Carolina A&T (now University), Fayetteville College (now State University), Livingstone College and my alma mater, Johnson C Smith University.

All of these schools had and have stellar academic programs and great athletic traditions.  Over time, North Carolina A&T University and North Carolina Central University moved on to another division, as did Hampton Institute (now University) and Norfolk State College (now University).  In fact, Winston-Salem State University moved to another division for a few years but now they have come back to their rightful home, the CIAA.

I have been on the campus of Winston-Salem State University countless times. One of its presidents, Dr. Kenneth R. Williams, lived on our street.  Back in the day it was a very big deal to go to an athletic contest featuring Winston-Salem Teachers College.  The school was fondly called TC.

In my neighborhood lived one of the greatest basketball coaches of all-time, Clarence “Big House” Gaines.  His coach-ing achievements and contributions to the game of basketball have been characterized as iconic.  When young boys like me, Bishop Graham and William Earl Jr., would go over to his house, we would run into basketball players like Teddy Blunt, Richard Glover and Louis “Left Hand” Parker.  Of course many would say that the greatest basketball player that he coached was Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.  It did not hurt that Mrs. Clara Gaines, his wife, taught some of us Latin at Atkins High School, so we were always around their house and Skyland Recreation Center, which was across the street.

The CIAA Basketball Tournament was a staple in Winston-Salem for a number of years.  Outstanding teams like Virginia State College (now University) which won this year’s men’s tournament, Virginia Union University and the ones that I mentioned earlier made it a treat for us as young boys to attend.  Shaw University, St. Paul’s College, St. Augustine College (now University) and Elizabeth State College (now University) were also members of the conference and competed in the tournament as well.  During that time, the aforementioned schools in North Carolina and Virginia made up the majority of the CIAA.

While you hear basketball enthusiasts talk about Tobacco Road and schools like Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina, there has also been as much conversation about CIAA schools.  Coaches like Steve Joyner (Johnson C. Smith University) and Dave Robbins (retired coach at Virginia Union University) are coaching legends in the CIAA. Joyner and his brother, Ed “Buck” Joyner, who was the head coach at St. Paul’s College before it closed and now is an assistant coach at Livingstone College, have a basketball-coaching family dynasty.  Both of their sons are basketball coaches.  Buck Jr. is the head men’s coach at Hampton University and Steve Jr. is the head women’s coach at Johnson C. Smith University.

The CIAA Conference was something that we just took for granted and seeing great college athletes wasn’t anything unusual.  However as I reflect now, I realize what a special time that was.

So if you fast forward to 2016, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association has changed quite a bit. Athletic teams within the conference are better and women’s sports teams have taken tremendous strides.  Student-athletes from the CIAA schools are graduating in greater numbers and the conference has added more schools.  For example, the newest members are Bowie State University (Md.), Chowan University (N.C.) and Lincoln University (Pa.).

The marketing of the CIAA has certainly contributed to the overall success not only for the conference, but also for the individual schools.  The Conference offices are now located in Charlotte, arguably one of the premier cities in the South.

Alumni of these schools and those who never attended one of the conference’s schools plan their vacations around the CIAA Basketball Tournament. By the way, it will be held in Charlotte next year, so make your hotel reservations now.

We just returned from the tournament a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time. It was a time to see old friends and talk about the good old days.  I spent a lot of time simply walking around and seeing people that I had not seen in years.  This is what happens at the CIAA.  You go for the basketball and you leave with renewed friendships and great stories to tell.

I often say to my friends and col-leagues that the CIAA Basketball Tournament should be on your bucket list. Spread the word because next year will be here before you know it.  It will be time for basketball, great fellowship and wonderful memories.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C Smith University where he was all-conference for four years.

He is the President Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee of Ohio and a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors