CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Leon Kerry, commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, remains bullish on Charlotte despite the city being the target of protests and criticism from Black leaders.
Kerry said Thursday his Division II league of historically Black colleges and universities remains committed to holding its basketball tournament in Charlotte, saying it’s “the best place” it’s been held in his 22 years on the job.
The CIAA recently signed a three-year extension to keep the event in the city through 2014.
“Charlotte has been exceptionally great to the CIAA,” Kerry said. “We became a destination here. The community is involved.”
Local NAACP President Kojo Nantambu has urged groups to reconsider events in Charlotte after the city’s school system held classes on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a makeup for a snow day.
Leaders also protested last year when they felt plans to close schools disproportionately affected minority students.
Kerry said protest groups haven’t contacted him, but it wouldn’t affect the CIAA’s relationship with Charlotte.
“There’s a can-do spirit from the hotels, to the police department to the arena,” Kerry said. “I’m totally against anything that would be anti-Charlotte.”
Kerry spoke at a news conference as the league announced plans for the Feb. 28-March 5 tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena. Kerry said they’re nearing $2 million in ticket sales, ahead of last year’s pace, and fueled in part by lowering the price of the upper deck weekly booklets from $100 to $75. Lower bowl seats range from $175-$400.
This year’s event features 13 schools after the addition of Winston-Salem State University and Lincoln University (Pa.). That coincides with an increase in space for the fan experience to 200,000 square feet.
Kerry also announced that the men’s championship game will move from ESPN Classic to ESPNU, but the game will be televised on a late-night tape-delay. Kerry said he felt it was more important the game started at 8 p.m.
Last year, the men’s final started at 5 p.m. to be televised live on ESPN Classic, producing a smaller crowd.
“I want my game on at 8 o’clock,” Kerry said. “You can tape-delay me.”