CIAA Honors Five Pioneers as Title IX Trailblazers


 In continued celebration and acknowledgment of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), the nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference, is recognizing five pioneers that have helped shape their institutions, the CIAA, and women’s athletics. These women are just five of a total of 50 CIAA Title IX Trailblazers, who will be recognized during the 2023 CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, which will be held from February 21-25 at the CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, MD.

Bonnie Logan is a women’s tennis legend while Sharon Brummell is a women’s bowling legend. Katherine Bennett and Dr. Beverly Downing advocated for more women in sports at their respective universities and Dr. Paulette Johnson brought national recognition to HBCU cheerleading. These five women are not just Title IX Trailblazers, they are pioneers that raised the ceiling for women in athletics.

Bonnie Logan | Morgan State

Bonnie Logan, once described as “the legitimate heir to former tennis queen Althea Gibson,” is a CIAA sports pioneer who broke racial and gender barriers. As a freshman at Morgan State University, Logan won the No. 2 CIAA Men’s Singles Championship as a freshman, the first woman ever to win a CIAA Men’s title and the first to ever win a championship in an NCAA-affiliated men’s conference. 

From 1967-1971, Logan was ranked as the No. 1 singles and doubles player. From 1964-1970, she won seven consecutive American Tennis Association (ATA) National titles. She also grabbed four mixed double championships and a women’s doubles title for a total of 12 ATA championships.

In 1969, Logan won her third straight North Carolina State Closed Women’s Championship and received the Outstanding Young Women of America Award. In 1972, Logan became the first black woman to participate in the South African Open Tennis Championships and also the first to play in the Virginia Slims Tennis Tour, the top women’s league at the time.

In addition to tennis, Logan was also a varsity student-athlete in basketball, field hockey, softball, and volleyball. Logan is a member of the Morgan State University Athletic Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.
Katherine Bennett | Hampton & Virginia State

In 1953, Katherine Bennett joined Virginia State University as a professor of health and physical education. That same year, Bennett created and established the Officiating Board and Women’s Officials at VSU. In the late 1950s, Bennett created guidelines that would ultimately lead to incorporating women’s athletics into the CIAA.

In 1968, Bennett coached the first competitive women’s basketball team at VSU, and in 1975, she directed the first CIAA women’s basketball tournament at Virginia State. In 1977, Bennett was appointed chairperson of the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at VSU, the first woman to hold this post. That same year, Bennett became the first coordinator for women’s sports at Virginia State. Bennett retired from Virginia State in 1992.

Bennett worked as a health and physical education professor at Hampton Institute (now-University) from 1947 to 1953 before being hired at Virginia State. Also at Hampton, Bennett coordinated the women’s athletics program. Bennett is a graduate of North Carolina A&T, where she was a member of the band, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics teams. She was also a founding member of NC A&T’s majorette program. At NC A&T, Bennett joined the Women’s Athletic Association and was active in the National Sports Day Association, which organized intramural competitions for African American female college students.

For all her efforts championing women’s athletics, Bennett was inducted into the CIAA’s Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

Dr. Beverly Downing | Saint Augustine’s/Livingstone
Coach & Student-Athlete

Dr. Beverly Downing began her journey in the CIAA as a student-athlete in women’s basketball and softball at Livingstone College from 1975-78. On the hardwood, she was a two-time All-CIAA performer as well as an AIAW All-American for two seasons. During her time as a student, Downing helped start the softball team at Livingstone College.

In 1982, Downing began coaching women’s basketball and softball at Saint Augustine’s College (now University), where she won seven CIAA Coach of the Year awards throughout her career, including three in basketball (1986, 1990, 1992). As the head women’s basketball coach at SAU, Downing accumulated 260 wins over 16 seasons, most in program history, while winning four CIAA Southern Division titles, finishing with 12 winning seasons, and five seasons of 20 wins or more. Downing also won two CIAA titles (1989, 1991) and three division crowns (1990-1992) while leading the Falcons’ softball program.

Dr. Downing was a member of the U.S. Olympic basketball coaching staff from 1986-2000, helping lead the 1994 team to a silver medal as an assistant at the US Olympic Festival. She also spent time as an assistant basketball coach and helped start the softball program at Hampton University. Dr. Downing was inducted into the inaugural Livingstone College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, becoming the first woman to be inducted.
Dr. Paulette Johnson | Virginia State
Coach & Administrator

From 1974 to 2010, Dr. Paulette Walker Johnson coached the nationally recognized Virginia State University “Woo-Woos” Cheering Squad. Setting the standard for HBCU cheering programs, the Woo Woos and Dr. Johnson have been featured on the BET television network, Urban Sports Network, and ESPN, and have had numerous appearances on locally based television stations. In the 1990s, the squad performed at a boxing match staged by the legendary promoter Don King.

In 1999, the Mayor of the City of Petersburg established “Dr. Paulette Walker Johnson Day”.  Dr. Johnson is noted as the first female athletic director in Virginia State history and she coached the Trojans softball team to its first CIAA Softball Championship.  In the conference, she was the founder and first president of the CIAA Cheerleader Coaches Association. She is a 2003 inductee of the Virginia State Wall of Fame and a 2011 inductee into the CIAA Hall of Fame.

Sharon Brummell | Maryland-Eastern Shore
Coach & Administrator

For 14 years, Sharon Brummell was the women’s bowling coach at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. As a five-time MEAC Coach of the Year, Conference Champion (2000, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), and two-time National Coach of the Year (2008 & 2010), Brummell has made history several times over. Her 2008 NCAA National Championship was the first women’s bowling title for an HBCU and she was the first African American or woman to win a national championship in women’s bowling. After winning her second NCAA Championship in 2010, Brummell and the Hawks became the first team to win an NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship and United States Bowling Congress Collegiate Championship.

Brummell served for nearly 20 years at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, including the last six years as the Associate Director of Athletics for Budgeting and Fiscal Operations, as well as the Senior Woman Administrator. With Maryland-Eastern Shore, Brummell helped shape the university’s gender-equity plans and she was a staunch advocate for women’s athletics. Brummell spearheaded UMES’ participation in Relay for Life events, Breast Cancer Awareness events, and she took her team to local shelters to advocate against domestic violence.

Brummell is an active member of CABMA, NACWAA, NACDA, and MOAA. She was elected as CABMA president for the 2019-20 membership year as well as being named the Division I Administrator of the Year for 2018-19 by Women Leaders in College Sports.  In 2012 and 2013, Brummell was inducted into the UMES Hall of Fame and MEAC Hall of Fame, respectively. Today, Brummell serves as the Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director for Business & Finance at Georgetown University.

On February 25, the CIAA will be crowning the 2023 champion in men’s and women’s basketball and so every week leading into the CIAA Basketball Tournament, the conference will be recognizing a set of trailblazers.

Additionally, as part of the continued efforts to champion and highlight the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the CIAA has introduced a dedicated Title IX Page on its website, featuring archives of the CIAA Woman of the Years, various other relevant news releases, and video podcast episodes highlighting some amazing women inside and outside the conference. 

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