As the first African-American woman to be named CIAA commissioner, Jacqie Carpenter is a trailblazer. Prior to settling into her current position last September, she spent nearly 10 years with the NCAA working in top-level administrative roles with national championships for Division I men’s and women’s basketball.
During her college days at Hampton University, Carpenter, a three-time pick as the CIAA MVP in women’s basketball, played a key role for the Pirates who won the Division II national championship in 1988.
Carpenter takes over as the chief executive of a well-established conference entering its 101st year of operation. The new commissioner recently granted an interview to Chronicle Sports to discuss a range of topics concerning the conference.
Q: You’re a product of the CIAA and now you’re the league boss. Has it all sunk in yet?
A: Being commissioner is something I’ve always dreamed about. There aren’t too many people who get to realize their dream job. These last five months have been an absolute treat for me.
Q: As the (successor) to Leon Kerry, what’s your vision for further fortifying the legacy of the CIAA?
A: I’m excited to come in behind a commissioner who made a great impact. My hope is that I will help the conference to grow in a way that over the next 20 years, or 100 years, people will say that the former commissioners did a really good job of making sure that conference kept moving in the right direction.
Q: What steps are being taken to address the $500,000 deficit incurred by the CIAA prior to you becoming commissioner?
A: During my first three months, I made an assessment of our assets and identified some areas where there has been excessive spending. We also looked at where we can make significant cuts. The decisions being made are designed to help establish financial stability for the CIAA. I don’t want to be in the red. I’m hoping that in three years, we’ll be in the black.
Q: In what areas are these cuts being made?
A: We’ve cut back in ways that are not popular with some people. This includes a reduction in the number of CIAA Tournament credentials issued, the number of complimentary tickets, and the number of guest passes we give out for hospitality. We’ve also cut back on the amount of dollars we spend for ancillary events that just may not make (economic) sense for us right now.
Q: Are these cuts permanent?
A: Things could change in the future. But currently, with where we are in our deficit, we just have to make some smart decisions about how we’re going to spend our dollars, and where those dollars need to be funneled to. It’s been challenging. But at the end of the day, I’m pleased about the direction that we’re going. People may be upset and say that I’m cutting out all the goodies. There are a lot of reasons for us to do this. We need to get out of this deficit so the conference can be healthy and move in a direction where it can provide the best experience for the student-athlete.
Q: The CIAA Tournament has been financially lucrative for the city of Charlotte. The economic impact from last year was $50.5 million. Could Charlotte end up being the tournament’s permanent site?
A: Charlotte has been a great place for the tournament. But as we move forward, we need to look at it from the standpoint of what’s going to work for us. There’s an economic impact for the host city. But, is it economically beneficial for the conference?
Q: At this juncture, where is the CIAA in the bidding process?
A: We’re working on bid materials right now. Those materials will go out this spring and we hope to have a decision by this summer. The bid structure will be quite different than it has been in the past. During my time with the NCAA, I became very familiar with a lot of the processes on how championships are run at the national level. So, I want to incorporate what I learned to ensure that there’s an economic benefit for all sides involved.