Get ready, CIAA Championship comes to Salem this weekend!

Jacqie McWilliams

by Deborah Johns Moir

Excitement is building in the Roanoke–Salem communities for the upcoming 2018 CIAA Football Championship. It’s all happening this Saturday, Nov. 10th at Salem Stadium.

The battle starts at 1p.m. between the Southern Division Champs, Fayetteville State U. Broncos and the Bowie State U. Bulldogs, Northern Division Champs.

To get the party started, free parking for tailgating begins at 9 a.m. in the parking lot, designated “the Fan Zone.” Activities scheduled include a “banging” drumline, several drawings, contests and prizes and cheering squads designed to make you “holla.” And there’s also judging for a Tailgating Cook-off sponsored by Food Lion and Coca-Cola.

A driving force as to why this Championship is doing well in Salem for three years running is Jacqueline “Jacqie” McWilliams, the first African American female Commissioner of the CIAA: she knows a thing or two about championships and Black Girl Magic.

While at Hampton U she was on the 1988 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship Team, and the CIAA volleyball championship teams for 1987 and 1990. All of that before earning a BA in Psychology in 1991, Hampton U and an MA in Sports Management (1993, Temple U.)

She went on to manage NCAA championships during her nine year tenure there, including director, Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament and Division I Men’s Basketball tournament.

The CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) was founded in 1912. McWilliams became the third full-time Commissioner of the CIAA seven years ago and manages 14 CIAA championships.

Enhancing opportunities for student athletes seems to be a major priority for McWilliams. She works with staff, 13 member institutions and the board of directors and she leads strategic planning of the 106 year old association.

When the board requested that all championships move out of North Carolina, Salem had already hosted 85 NCAA championships over the last two decades.

“Salem actually became an option, an opportunity for us to explore,” explains McWilliams. “They have the infrastructure to host any football championship… And so we moved up to Salem and they did a fantastic job… And because our experience was so great for our student athletes, our alumni and sponsors, we thought we’d come back to Salem for the next three years, and so here we are.”

“It’s been a great partnership. Salem and Roanoke have been extremely accommodating and supportive in allowing us to impact the community…that’s what we do in our championships, so it’s been good for us,” she added.

McWilliams says that part of that impact includes the support of alumni who come to town for the game, the hotels and restaurants that benefit. McWilliams says that a joint partnership with the NCAA’s (Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Assoc.) “Readers Become Leaders” program has encouraged area third graders, approximately 1,000 students, to read 30 minutes or more a day. They receive, among other things, free tickets to the Nov. 10th game. Another good thing: a canned food drive sponsored by Food Lion which allows fans to bring five non-perishable food items and receive an on-site admission discount of $5. And there will be CIAA Championship Volleyball at 7pm at the Salem Civic Center for free.