Some of Atlanta’s heavy hitters in the sports community gathered in the Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club at the Philips Arena for the announcement of the inaugural Historically Black Colleges and Universities Tip-Off Championship scheduled for Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.
The historic event will showcase the talents of men’s basketball teams from eight schools representing the four HBCU Conferences. (Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)).
Philips Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, will host the annual event. It will mark the first time in the arena’s 14-year history that it has hosted an HBCU function.
The tournament was spearheaded by Kevin Clayton, the managing partner at Jumpball LLC, a corporation that specializes in multi-cultural marketing and collegiate license apparel. He saw a need for Black colleges and universities to have the opportunity to play in a tournament at the beginning of the basketball season. He noted that while there are a number of basketball tournaments that occur at the season’s tip-off such as the Maui Classic and Coaches vs. Cancer, rarely are HBCUs invited to play.
“It’s 100 years overdue,” said Clayton. “This tournament would finally give HBCUs the recognition they deserve.”
From among the 104 HBCUs with teams, a tournament selection committee will invite eight schools each year, dividing up the conferences geographically. Tennessee State and Central State, which do not belong to a HBCU conference, will also receive invites to play in the tournament. Chicago State, an independent institute, has accepted their invitation for 2014.
The first team committed to participate in this year’s HBCU Tip-Off is Morehouse College. Announcement of the other seven participants await commitments from additional colleges.
“My goal as an athletic director is to try to create “lifetime experiences” for my student-athletes,” Morehouse’s Director of Athletics Andre Patillo said. “We have talented athletes at our HBCUs and they don’t get the same exposure as the majority of other institutions do. I think this could potentially be as large as anything any historical Black college program has had.”
The tournament tagline, “Play like a champion. Live like a champion. Be a champion!” reflects the communal aspects of the Tip-Off, he noted. “This event will highlight players and teams that have never seen the national spotlight before.”
The Tip-Off Championship tournament will be a week-long celebration of events showcasing the athletic talents and achievements of current and past HBCU players and coaches. Additionally, it will celebrate the rich history and contributions of the HBCU culture and provide a platform for alumni, friends and supporters to come together to address social, health and economic issues and opportunities.
“I am very excited. That statue is going to look really good in the Howard University trophy case,” Wendy Davis, star of Lifetime Television’s “Army Wives” and a Howard alum told the Atlanta Daily World with a smile. “I’m looking forward to the community festival that will be part of the event experience. There will be celebrity participation, entertainment, health information and inspiration for people to be the best they can possibly be.”
Tickets for the tournament will go on sale April 1. Additional information on the tournament can be found at www.hbcutipoff.com.