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Keeping proven media outlets from the CIAA Awards Banquet was a mistake


by Lut Williams

At this time a year ago the CIAA was smarting from an embarrassing assault on the Winston-Salem State starting quarterback by a Virginia State player at a leaguesponsored awards luncheon the day before the championship game between the two teams.

That assault, which garnered national headlines including a lead story on ESPN and other major sports outlets, was literally a black eye for the victim, WSSU QB Rudy Johnson, and the conference, whose commissioner all but admitted as much during the preseason kickoff to this year‘s season.

While everyone has tried to put that dark chapter behind them, I‘m not sure the conference did the right thing in having a closed event Thursday evening for its 2014 Awards Banquet, the same affair where a year ago the unfortunate event took place and this year featured the same two teams in attendance and about to do battle in Saturday‘s championshp game.

Not publicizing the event or letting the media know of it does the league no good.

It was a chance to publicize what is going right with the league, honor its best players and coaches and celebrate a year relatively free of incident. That‘s not to mention the photo opportunities of the players and coaches smiling with their respectives awards and trophies which I, among others, need and would use.

In all fairness, many of these awards luncheons or banquets are by invitation only. But the media is usually welcomed if not encouraged to come. Not this time. Those media who did inquire were told that it was a closed affair, with no media allowed.

Whether this came from some xenophobic-type fear that ESPN or other major media outlets would be waiting with cameras pointed to chronicle the next ugly chapter in the sordid drama or some attempt to protect both players and coaches from media scrutiny, the decision was wrong.

First of all, ESPN or other major sports outlets are not coming. Even if you had a fight a year ago that shook up the sports world, they‘re not coming. They‘re too busy hanging on every Jameis Winston or Johnny Manziel or Ben Roethelisberger or Peyton Manning word or act to worry about the CIAA. If they were so interested in what‘s going on in the CIAA, they would have reported that the Virginia State starting quarterback was arrested for drunk driving Sunday and suspended from the title game because of it.

But that tidbit doesn‘t warrant national coverage.

No, who it hurt were the people and outlets like mine, and others that I won‘t name here, who cover the CIAA on a regular basis and do everything possible to cover the conference in a fair manner, not just when a black eye rises to the level of being a national story.

Truth is, I may not have made the one-hour trip to Durham from my home in Greensboro to cover the banquet. Maybe I would have just sent a photographer. But at least I would have known that I was welcome.


Champions will be crowned this week in the CIAA and SIAC but we won‘t know whether those teams will advance to the NCAA Div. II playoffs until 5 p.m.

Sunday when the 24-team playoff field is announced by the selection committee. The committee will select the top six teams from each of four Super Regions.

The CIAA, which is in Super Region I, has both its championship game participants in the Top Ten in the region going into Saturday‘s championship game.

South Division champ Winston-Salem State, at 9-1, is fourth in the region while North Division champ Virginia State, 8-2, is seventh. More than likely only one will make the field. But there are possibilities for both to get in.

A WSSU win Saturday asures that the Rams will get in while a loss by VSU likely knocks the Trojans out of the playoffs. But last-game wins or losses by other ranked teams could have an impact on the Trojans‘ fate. And in just about every case in Super Region I, ranked teams are playing other ranked teams.

The No. 1 team in the region, 10-0 Bloomsburg, will face No. 8 Slippery Rock (8-2) in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game. The second place team in the region, 10-0 Concord of the Mountain East Conference, is on the road for its season-ender Saturday against the No. 6 team, 8-1 Shepherd. PSAC member West Chester (9-1), the No. 3 team in the region, closes the regular season at unranked IUP (5-4) and American International (8-2), out of the Northeast-10 Conference, the No. 5 ranked team, closes its season against unranked LIU-Post (7-3).

A win by VSU coupled with losses by any of the teams ranked ahead of it could move the Trojans into the top six and drop one of those teams out. The question would then be how far would WSSU fall with a loss.

There‘s a similar scenario in Super Region II where both SIAC championship game participants, Tuskegee and Albany State, reside and are in the top ten.

Tuskegee (8-2) enters Saturday‘s title game in Montgomery, Alabama ranked third in the region while Albany State (7-2) is seventh.

A Tuskegee win gets the Golden Tigers into the playoffs for the second straight season. Albany State needs a win and a loss by one of the teams ranked ahead of it for a shot at making the field. One difference with the Super Region I scenario is that none of the ranked teams in Region II are playing other ranked teams.

Those teams include No. 1, Lenoir-Rhyne (10-0) who closes at home against Catawba (6-3), No. 2 Delta State (8-1) who faces 1-8 Mississippi College, No. 4 North Alabama (8-1) who takes on (5-6) West Alabama, No. 5 Valdosta State (7-2) who faces (6-4) Florida Tech or No. 6 (8-2) West Georgia who faces (3-6) Shorter.


Any chance of the MEAC getting three teams in the FCS playoffs all but went by the wayside with 2-7 Hampton‘s 40-35 upset of nationally-ranked Bethune-Cookman Thursday night.

B-CU entered the game tied with North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State for first place in the MEAC with 5-1 records. The loss not only knocks the Wildcats out of a first-place tie, but it all but ends the chance that the league would get three teams in the playoffs for the first time in history. As it stood prior to the game, B-CU, A&T and SC State could have all finished the season at 10-2 and with only one loss in conference play. Now it‘s left to see how A&T and SC State finish out the season.

A&T plays at winless Savannah State Saturday while SCSU travels to dangerous Morgan State.



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