Q&A: Commissioner Jacqui Carpenter: CIAA Isn’t Just a Big Party [Part 1]

The CIAA is trying to get back to its roots: Excellence in athletics.

This year's CIAA Basketball Championships featured a new logo and new slogan.

When it comes to the CIAA Basketball Championships in Charlotte, you’re either there, on your way or wishing you were on your way. Whoever you are, we talked to new CIAA commissioner Jacqui Carpenter on a range of different topics for you. It was so good (she doesn’t pull many punches) that we decided to break it down into a two-parter. We’ll post part 2 Friday morning. Stay tuned!

People are buzzing about the tournament in Charlotte this year. What’s been the key with marketing?

We have a great relationship with all the current sponsors that we have. We have a media rights agreement with a company called Urban Sports that helps us manage those sponsorships. Since I’ve come on board we’ve worked very hard to work more collaboratively at identifying sponsors and also maintain the sponsorships that we have. Nationwide has been a great partner with us. Food Lion has been with us about 17 years. Coca-Cola has been great as well. We’ve got some long-standing relationships that have been pretty healthy that we’re looking to grow for the future. A lot of them have invested in scholarship dollars that go back  to our member schools. It’s been quite a blessing for us given the struggles we have raising dollars and getting money into our institutions.

Verizon is one we’re looking to work with and looking to expand. We’re looking at some of our social media platforms to help push out all of our events and get to a different demographic.

I also want people to understand the tournament is a staple of who we are and what we’ve done, but there’s so much more to our conference than just the tournament. We’ve got 16 championships. We’ll have our indoor track championship where we have a coach that is nationally known, George Williams of St. Augustine’s University. He has a premiere program. Shaw University’s womens basketball team won the national championship last year. Winston-Salem State football played in the national championship against Valdosta State. I think when our athletic programs are healthy and good, that really helps with our connection with our sponsors in terms of what they get back by being attached to us.

To what extent was some of the CIAA’s recent struggles made this a less enticing position for you to take?

I knew coming in that there would be some challenges to the new commissioner. But to be honest I’ve never walked away from a challenge in my life. I tell people all the time that I’m living my dream job and I was willing take this position no matter what the challenges would be. What I’m really looking forward to is to make a difference and do something that haven’t been able to do in the past to get us into a better financial situation. We are working hard to look at our budget and expenses to ensure that as we move forward we’re being more financially and fiscally responsible. The priority is that if we’re spending and doesn’t help the student-athlete then we probably don’t need to be spending much or the same in that area. I’m continuing to do assessments of our financial matters to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. It’s not an easy turnaround. I would like everything to be great and gravy the next day. But the reality is I’m coming up behind a predecessor that’s been the been the commissioner for 22 years and had done a great job at bringing revenue to the conference, but with that brought some challenges as well. Maybe we didn’t keep up with the growth and [manage what we were spending]. We need to make sure that we’re spending our dollars wisely so that we have money to give back to our members institutions.

Check here for part two with the commissioner tomorrow.

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