The upcoming CIAA Basketball Tournament set to tip off this month marks its fourth consecutive year in Baltimore. The Baltimore community has been proud to serve as host of the men’s and women’s tournament, which provides a gathering place for student-athletes, students, alumni, families and fans coming to support the nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference.

The Maryland Sports Commission is proud and humbled to have had a role in recruiting this event to Baltimore and in helping sustain efforts to ensure that the CIAA remains in the city for years to come. The CIAA Tournament, the city and the state have found a mutually beneficial connection, not only economically, but also socially and culturally.

In addition, as Baltimore celebrates Black History Month, the Maryland Sports Commission is committed to continuing its support and recruitment of events held by historically black colleges and universities that bring real impact throughout the state.

The Maryland Sports Commission develops and highlights the state as a premier destination for sports. One of the core tenets of our organization is to partner with diverse communities and provide opportunities for participation in amateur sports as well as showcase the great student-athletes at the collegiate level. The upcoming CIAA Tournament at CFG Bank Arena is certainly an outstanding example of how we work to shine a positive light on the state as a destination for HBCU athletic events, but our work does not stop there.

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In addition to the CIAA Tournament, the Maryland Sports Commission has focused on building inroads into the game of lacrosse for African American athletes by partnering with the Next Collegiate League, an inclusive lacrosse organization that focuses on growing the sport in new communities.

Next Collegiate League has a goal of becoming a training ground for the next generation of lacrosse players. Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Howard University are five teams in this region making up the eight-team league scheduled to start play in late March.

The Maryland Sports Commission was also instrumental in bringing the inaugural Howard University Women’s Golf Invitational in 2023 to Baltimore Country Club. The event welcomed nine other university golf teams to the area, enabling these young student-athletes to play at one of the Top 100 clubs in the United States. The student-athletes also attended a dinner at the club where they were able to engage with executives from professional golf management organizations and learn about careers in the world of golf.

We continue to look for new and unique ways to support and celebrate HBCUs, including a pilot internship program that we are developing, utilizing the Youth and Amateur Sports Grant and Michael Erin Busch Fund grant. The goal is to provide students from HBCUs with career and professional development opportunities and hands-on experience as part of developing young professionals who will set the course for the future of the sports tourism industry.

Since coming to Baltimore, the CIAA Tournament has generated nearly $30 million in total economic impact. It supports more than 1,500 part-time and full-time jobs. The economic impact is clear. Visitors to our city occupy area hotels, eat in area establishments, visit attractions around town, spend on retail at women-owned and minority-owned businesses and generate $2.5 million in state and local taxes. All this helps contribute to a prideful, thriving community and positions Baltimore and Maryland as destinations where people want to do business.

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The impact of the event goes far beyond economics.

Tournament week brings significant events to Baltimore, such as High School Education Day, where attendees will be able to meet with college recruiters from Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia to learn tips to prepare for college as well as get the inside track on the collegiate experience.

There’s the CIAA Career Expo, a free program that provides East Coast business organizations the opportunity to engage with recent graduates, current students, career seekers and career switchers to recruit for available career and educational opportunities. These events and others are the connective thread between Baltimore and the CIAA that provides opportunities for our community’s young people and the educational institutions that support them.

In working with HBCUs, we’re making an investment in something much larger than a game, a sport or a tournament. We’re making an investment in student-athletes. We’re making investments in colleges and universities. We’re making investments in communities and cities in a way that is long overdue.

The events that we touch bring people together — fans from across the region as well as outstanding student-athletes and academic institutions — to celebrate and educate. They also showcase our great city and state and the longstanding connection between our community and HBCUs. We look forward to continuing to foster this important relationship, celebrating the HBCU culture and sense of community that comes from it.

Terry Hasseltine is executive director of the Maryland Sports Commission.

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