The NAIA tip-off of the men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City in 1937 began a 78- year run that is the longest running event in college basketball. It was the first collegiate athletics association to invite historically black colleges into membership and the first to sponsor both men’s and women’s national championships. Tennessee State A&I became the first college team to win three consecutive national championships (1957-58), followed by the Kentucky State Thorobreds in 1970-72. Miriam Walker became one of the most celebrated women’s college basketball players and still sits atop of 15 offensive scoring records. Central State, Ohio won two basketball championships in the 1960s and had three football championships in the 1980’s. HBCUs enjoyed other successes before leaving for the NCAA.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association began in 1910 as the IAAUS (Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States). In 1938, the conference first basketball tournament was won by Oregon, 46-33 over Ohio State. It was not until the late 1950s before it formally began to accept Black colleges into its ranks. By 1973, when they formed three subdivisions (Div. I, Div. II and Div. III), many of the HBCUs began to migrate over from the NAIA, which had accepted them 20 years before. Dave Whitney’s Alcorn State teams had already established their contender status with upsets and near upsets over highly ranked predominately-white teams before Winston-Salem State, led by legendary coach Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines and Hall of Fame player Earl Monroe became the first Black college team to win a Div. II basketball championship. In football, Florida A&M claimed the first Div. 1-AA football championship in 1978. In track, Leroy Walker (NCCU), Ed Temple (Tenn. State), Barbara Jacket (Prairie View) and numerous others built strong programs that won numerous championships for years to come. Recently, George Williams (St. Augusine’s) leads a contingency that has carried on the tradition. Williams’ St. Aug’s men team captured 14 NCAA II titles, while Bob Screen’s impressive tennis teams at Hampton U have been perennial contenders.