The CIAA football championship game has a home — at least for the next three years.
Building off the success of last year’s move to Salem, Va., the CIAA announced last week that it has reached a three-year deal to hold the game in the same city. This season’s game will be Nov. 11 at Salem Stadium.
The game was played at Salem Stadium last fall when the CIAA presidents and chancellors, under plenty of pressure, moved the game from Durham after the controversy surrounding House Bill 2. The state’s legislature mostly repealed the law, although some parts of it remain in place.
The time of the championship game has not yet been determined, according to the CIAA, because there’s a chance the game will be televised.
Despite having only a month to prepare for the move of last year’s game, nearly 3,500 fans were there to see Winston-Salem State beat Bowie State 43-33 for its second straight CIAA title.
“We are excited to bring the rich legacy and tradition of CIAA championships to a city known for hosting top NCAA championships and who understands the value of serving its community through athletics,” said CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams in a statement. “The city of Salem did an exceptional job hosting last year’s football championship.”
McWilliams could not be reached for further comment.
Winston-Salem State has been the Southern Division champion the last six seasons and this year, with most of its starters back, will likely be a favorite to win the division again.
Tonia Walker, the athletics director at WSSU, loved the experience of last year’s game at Salem Stadium.
“It’s great to hear that the commissioner solidified the CIAA football championship in Salem, Virginia, for the next three years,” Walker said. “Salem offered an awesome championship environment — from the culture of the city to the amenities of the facility to the hospitality of the citizens.”
Walker and coach Kienus Boulware of the Rams were impressed by how fast the city of Salem worked in putting together the game last season.
“Last year’s game was played with short notice, and I can only hope that the championship weekend experience will only get better moving forward for the student-athletes, coaches and fans,” Walker said.
Boulware, who has been a part of all six Southern Division titles as defensive coordinator and head coach, said if the Rams are fortunate to win the division again, he’ll welcome going back to Salem Stadium.
“I was overly impressed with the facility,” Boulware said. “Everybody loves new, and it was a new experience there in Salem, so we loved everything about it.”
Boulware said his team especially liked playing on the artificial turf.
“It’s a great playing surface, and it’s a fast turf so the guys really liked that aspect of it,” Boulware said.
The Rams went 9-3 last season and made it to the Division II playoffs, where they lost 48-41 to Long Island Post in the first round.
According to reports, the CIAA will rent the stadium for $2,500 as well as pay the stadium staff on game day.
Mayor Randy Foley of Salem said: “The 2016 game was a great experience for local fans, and Salem is honored and privileged to host the CIAA football championship for an additional three years. We have worked extremely hard over the years to earn the name ‘Virginia’s Championship City,’ and we’re excited that the CIAA will now be an important part of our championship legacy.”