Courtesy of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association:
The wait for Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Football is almost over as we are now four weeks away from season kickoff. From the opening games on September 1 to the 2022 CIAA Football Championship on November 12, fans will be treated to 11 weeks of action. As we countdown the days, here are just some of the most anticipated games and matchups of the 2022 CIAA football season.
Four CIAA schools open the season on Thursday, September 1. Saint Augustine’s University and Johnson C. Smith University go on the road for their non-conference matchups while Chowan University and Virginia Union University host to start the year. When the Panthers of Virginia Union welcome the Virginia University of Lynchburg in the fifth annual Williard Bailey Classic, it will be just the second time since 1931 that these two schools have faced off. A member of the Black College Football Hall of Fame, Williard Bailey coached at both Virginia Union and Virginia University Lynchburg.
After the four games on Thursday, September 3 will represent the First Saturday of the season, highlighted by the University of New Haven at Bowie State University and Livingstone College hosting Catawba College. For the Bulldogs, the Chargers pose a significant test to open their campaign as New Haven advanced to the NCAA Division II Regional Semifinals and finished with a 10-2 overall record last year. Against cross-town rivals Catawba in the Mayor’s Cup game, Livingstone will unveil its renovated Alumni Stadium and Track, featuring the already-famous blue turf, a brand new state-of-the-art video scoreboard, and a stereo PA system. That contest also doubles as the 2022 West End Classic for the Blue Bears. For the past seven years, Livingstone’s first home game has been dedicated to the community in which the HBCU resides, the West End of Rowan County.
The first weekend slate of games does not end on Saturday, however. On Sunday, September 4, Winston-Salem State University will be featured in the third annual Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic. Pitted against Central State University, the Rams will travel to Canton, Ohio to become the first CIAA team to be showcased in the game. The contest will be played at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium and will be televised on the NFL Network.
The slate of games on September 10 is headlined by Elizabeth City State University’s annual Down East Viking Classic, when the Vikings battle Livingstone in Rocky Mount, N.C. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the event and it will be the first time that the Blue Bears are featured in the game since 1998.
September 17 is a date that all CIAA fans and alum should have circled because it marks the start of the eight-game regular season conference slate. For Lincoln University (PA) fans and alum, September 17 is even more noteworthy because it will be the first time since November 9, 2019 that the Lions have played in the LU Football Stadium. In 2021, Lincoln (PA) played its home games elsewhere due to construction delays on its stadium and COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season. In 2022, in front of their newly-renovated stadium, the Lions host Fayetteville State University for their home opener.
For the Northern Division of the CIAA, there might not be a game that holds more importance than the October 15 matchup between visiting Virginia Union and host Bowie State. The Bulldogs and Panthers are a classic case of 1 versus 2 as the two teams finished 1 and 2 in the final divisional standings and are again predicted to finish 1 and 2, respectively, this year, according to the coaches’ preseason poll. It is quite possible that the Panthers are the only team standing in the way of Bowie State earning a third consecutive undefeated conference record.
On the other side, in the Southern Division of the conference, Fayetteville State and Shaw University have finished 1 and 2 in the standings for the past three years, respectively. This year, the coaches are again predicting the Bears to finish behind the Broncos. If Shaw wants to change its fortune this year, October 29 is the day to do so when they go on the road to play Fayetteville State.
The regular season comes to a close on November 5 and when it comes to rivalry games, the best was saved for last. On the last Saturday, Livingstone plays host to Johnson C. Smith in the Commemorative Classic, Saint Augustine’s travels to take on Shaw in the Raleigh Classic, and Virginia Union is on the road to battle Virginia State.
Finally, CIAA football would not be HBCU football without Homecoming. Bowie State and Winston-Salem State kickoff the homecoming slate on October 1, followed by four schools (FSU, Lincoln, Virginia State, and Virginia Union) having their homecoming on October 8. Chowan, Elizabeth City State, Livingstone, and Saint Augustine’s have their homecoming affairs on October 15. October 22, the homecoming circuit comes to an end with Johnson C. Smith and Shaw.
The whole season culminates in the 2022 CIAA Football Championship in Salem, Va. on November 12.
This year, there are more ways to watch CIAA Football with AspireTV showcasing five matchups and PRC Communications packaging 10 games through regional networks. Finally, HBCUGo will simulcast a total of 30 games on their network, in addition to the CIAA Sports Network. Of course, you can still catch all conference contests on the CIAA Sports Network.