‘Mr. CIAA’ to be inducted to Hall of Fame
Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Suffolk’s Abraham Mitchell is already thinking about what fashionable threads he will wear on Feb. 26.
That’s the day that he gets inducted into the John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association during the association’s annual men’s basketball tournament.
“It was real exciting,” Mitchell said. “I almost went into shock.”
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It’s quite an accomplishment for someone who never played college sports and didn’t even attend a CIAA member school.
But he’s perhaps one of the most well known figures in CIAA sports because of his tradition of attending basketball games, particularly the tournament, and sporting snazzy attire in the colors of each school.
“I don’t take sides,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t make any difference who wins the game. I’m for both teams. I just do it for the enjoyment and excitement.”
Mitchell started the tradition back in 1970, when his nephew was attending and playing basketball at Norfolk State University, which was then a CIAA member school.
“It’s fascinating just to know that they’re honoring them,” said that nephew, Peter Mitchell. “It’s so amazing to see this happening. I never knew that my uncle would be Mr. CIAA.”
Mitchell’s traditional game-time routine features the colors of one school in the game during the first half. He works the crowd, taking pictures with fans young and old. If he has enough time, he might change into a miscellaneous outfit until halftime, at which point he changes into the other school’s colors and works the crowd again.
“At the tournament, I bring the house down,” he said.
Mitchell also is a crowd favorite during local parades, changing clothes in a car with blacked-out windows and emerging in a completely new outfit every block to the cheers of the crowd.
For his own schooling, Mitchell attended Maryland State College, now known as University of Maryland Eastern Shore, after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School. He didn’t play sports there, though.
He went on to serve in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Monroe for about two years. He also worked at the Naval Air Station and as a chauffeur. He currently works part-time at Crocker Funeral Home.
But he’s never let go of his tournament tradition, and it’s serving him well.
Mitchell will be one of 10 inducted into the CIAA Hall of Fame in February, alongside a coach, two administrators and six student-athletes. They will join a prestigious group of 264 who have been inducted since the first class in 1967.