CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Monday the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) had its tip-off awards luncheon for basketball players at the Charlotte Convention Center. The CIAA recognized students for their academic achievement and athletic ability. Players are excited to participate in this popular tournament.
"I feel like it's a blessing. Not a lot of people can experience this opportunity. I feel like it's one of the best conferences in the country," St. Augustine's University basketball player Anthony Cadogan said.
Cadogan says playing basketball is important but being a student is his main reason for attending college.
"Get your books first settled and then basketball second. School is always first for me," Cadogan said.
While students are gearing up for the five day tournament, CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams wants this tournament to be an event for everybody.
"I don't want people to see this as just a black event. I want them to see it as a Charlotte community event," CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said.
The commissioner says the CIAA has partnered with businesses that will provide activities the community can participate in.
"We've got Career Expo, we've got some free sessions. We're doing a lot of stuff that is free to the public," McWilliams said.
This year the CIAA has an app to help fans navigate their way through Charlotte during the popular basketball tournament. It's an app the commissioner says is easy to use.
"If you want to know traffic patterns. You want to know tickets - hotels you want to build your own schedule for the week - get the CIAA app," the commissioner said.
Another change this year is permits to hold unsanctioned events during the CIAA tournament week has become stricter. There will be a stronger vetting process to hold organizers responsible for who they allow to rent their space out for activities. Last year, shots were fired in uptown right before the CIAA championship game. No one was injured. Leaders believe this process will help cut down on people coming to the city causing trouble during a successful week.
Last year the CIAA pumped nearly $50 million into the local economy. City leaders want the CIAA to stay. The tournament's contract with the city ends in 2020. After this year's tournament ends, talks will begin with CIAA leaders about what happens next for the popular tournament.
"We're excited about maybe a long future, Jacqie and I always thought that this should be the permanent home of the CIAA tournament but we'll see what happens," Charlotte Regional Visitor's Authority CEO Tom Murray said.
The first game tips off Tuesday morning at Bojangles Coliseum at 10:00 a.m. The later games, starting Thursday, will be played at the Spectrum Center.