Courtesy of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
The same weekend the athletes of the CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament were on final approach to Baltimore, where their event would play out, a separate but no less special announcement was being made in Milwaukee. And both had strong ties to the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) community and to Black History Month.
First, a little background. Primarily located in the South and founded during the Reconstruction era, there are more than 100 colleges in the United States that are identified by the U.S. Department of Education as HBCUs. HBCUs were originally established in the 19th century to make quality, accredited higher education available to Black Americans. Today, HBCUs admit learners of all races. Among the prominent graduates of HBCUs are civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and United States Vice President Kamala Harris.
Fast forward to this weekend and you’ll find the CIAA, the nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference, gearing up for its biggest event. Of the 14 championships produced by the CIAA, the annual basketball tournament has evolved from a 2,000-seat sellout in Washington, D.C. during the inaugural tournament, into one of the nation’s premier sporting events attracting over 190,000 fans during the course of the week, and now touted as the third highest attended basketball tournament among all NCAA divisions.
Just how big is the event? Well, during its five-day run in 2022, the CIAA Basketball Tournament welcomed 36,390 total attendees (as tracked by Tourism Economics) over 22 basketball games and had a direct spending impact of $13.9 million. (The Royal Farms Arena, where much of the basketball action took place, measured 66,000 people through the turnstile).
The CIAA Tournament generated a total economic impact of $19.6 million, which supported 1,159 part-time and full-time jobs and generated $1.9 million in state and local taxes. In addition to total economic impact, the tournament generated $11 million in participant and spectator off-site spending, with $3.2 million spent in the food and beverage sector, $2.7 million in lodging, $2.1 million in entertainment and attractions and $1.9 million in retail spending.
Retail spending at sports events is a tradition, and one of the most popular souvenirs around is the bobblehead. And the Friday before the tournament took to the floor of the newly-renamed CFG Bank Arena, something else was happening – this time all the way out in Milwaukee, where the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled the first HBCU Bobblehead Series, which featured officially licensed bobbleheads of 13 HBCUs. The bobbleheads are being released in celebration of Black History Month.
The schools included in the first series are Alabama A&M University Bulldogs, Alabama State University Hornets, Delaware State University Hornets, Florida A&M University Rattlers, Fayetteville State University Broncos, Grambling State University Tigers, Howard University Bison, Jackson State University Tigers, Morgan State University Bears, North Carolina A&T State University Aggies, North Carolina Central University Eagles, Norfolk State University Spartans, and Tuskegee University Golden Tigers.
Standing on a base bearing the school’s nickname across the front, each mascot bobblehead is attired in its school’s colors in front of a backing featuring the school logo.
Each bobblehead is individually numbered to 2,023 and are available through the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum’s Online Store.
"We’re excited to release this long-overdue collection of HBCU bobbleheads,” National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar said. “We know these bobbleheads, which celebrate the rich history of these 13 amazing institutions, will be very popular with the alumni, students, faculty, staff, fans and communities.”
And they’ll probably be coming to a game near you as well. “We do work with a lot of the college bookstores and vendors and expect most of these will be available at the individual school bookstores, fan shops, and events when they arrive,” adds Sklar.
Need a bobblehead to commemorate the occasion? Check out the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum’s Online Store at this link.