North Carolina

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A Fed-up NCAA Pulls its Championships from North Carolina

21 Sep, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
ACC Follows Suit Less than a Week Later, Other Conference Withdrawals Expected

The NCAA announced last week that it will remove all seven previously awarded championship events from North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year.

The decision, according to an announcement from the NCAA, was “based on the NCAA's commitment to fairness and inclusion. The NCAA Board of Governors made this decision because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”

The NCAA’s decision is the latest piece of fallout after Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the measure, also known as House Bill 2 (HB2), which propelled North Carolina into the epicenter of a broader national debate over transgender rights.

According to the NCAA, the following seven championship events will be relocated from North Carolina for 2016-17: 

  • 2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, College Cup (Cary), Dec. 2 and 4.   

  • 2016 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships (Greensboro), Dec. 2 and 3. 

  • 2017 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, first/second rounds (Greensboro), March 17 and 19. 

  • 2017 Division I Women’s Golf Championships, regional (Greenville), May 8-10. 

  • 2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships (Cary), May 22-27.  

  • 2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship (Cary), May 26 and 28. 

  • 2017 Division II Baseball Championship (Cary), May 27-June 3. 

Mark Emmert, NCAA president, said the NCAA will determine the new locations for these championships soon. (Cue the mad scramble of destinations who want to express interest.)

It should be noted, however, that finding homes for events may be more easily said than done. The men’s and women’s soccer championships, for example, are coming up in early December – which does not leave much time to negotiate for venues, hotel space and more. An even more problematic issue may be the large-scale facilities and accommodations needed to house the opening rounds of March Madness.

The two destinations that lose the most in this equation are Cary (which had been scheduled to host DI women’s soccer, DI women’s lacrosse, DIII men’s and women’s tennis and DII baseball) and Greensboro (DIII men’s and women’s soccer, and DI men’s basketball, first and second rounds). Greenville lost the DI women’s golf championships.

As an aside, cities interested in hosting future NCAA championships completed a questionnaire this summer that required sites to provide information about any local anti-discrimination laws; provisions for refusal of services; and other facility-specific information. 

The ACC has followed the NCAA's lead, removing all its championships as well. However, noted an article in the Associated Press, this also brings plenty of challenges:

"Finding a football stadium as ACC-friendly as Charlotte might be difficult. The championship game has been played at Bank of America Stadium for the past six seasons with an average attendance of 69,641. In the previous two seasons, the game was held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., and averaged 49,412 spectators.

Football is not the only sport affected. The ACC planned to hold 14 of its 21 championship events in North Carolina this academic year, with the majority of those at neutral, off-campus, sites, and the others either on the campuses or the home venues of Wake Forest (field hockey), Duke (fencing), North Carolina (softball) and N.C. State (wrestling, cross country).

The ACC decision came the same day the NCAA reopened the bidding process for those championships it pulled from the state. The NCAA said bids for those events are due Sept. 27 and hopes to decide the new sites by Oct. 7."

Sports commissions and CVBs in cities that have lost the ability to host events, particularly those they campaigned hard and long for, are disappointed.

“Frustrating,” was how Henri Fourrier, President and CEO of the Greensboro Convention & Visitors Bureau described the situation to Sports Destination Management at the time HB2 was passed. “You work hard to get business and then someone makes a stupid decision.”

The NCAA’s recent decision is perhaps the most dramatic reaction to HB2, but it’s by no means the first. The NBA recently announced it had moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.

In the meantime, other events hang in the balance. March Madness 2018, for example, has its first- and second-round games scheduled for Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.

The backlash to North Carolina’s law has continued in other sectors. Businesses like PayPal and Deutsche Bank said the law caused them to abandon plans to expand there, and tourism groups said it was costing the state financially.

The NCAA has also noted that five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.

“Historically, the Association has taken steps to ensure its championship environment is consistent with its values,” noted the NCAA’s recent announcement. “The NCAA bans championships in states where governments display the Confederate battle flag or authorize sports wagering and at schools that use hostile and abusive Native American imagery.”

Worth noting: the only championship events that can be hosted in North Carolina this academic year are those that are decided when student-athletes earn the opportunity to play a championship on their own campus. The Board of Governors said this decision to allow these championships – called non-predetermined sites – to be played in North Carolina is consistent with the NCAA’s commitment to student-athletes.   

In North Carolina, the issue of tolerance and diversity continues to evolve. In late August, a federal judge ruled that the University of North Carolina system cannot enforce the part of the state’s bathroom bill that restricts which restrooms transgender people can use.

Although a final decision has not been reached in the case, schools, which according to an article in the Washington Post, have said they are caught between conflicting state and federal mandates — will not have to enforce the law’s language ordering people to only use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.

The University of North Carolina said that its attorneys were still reviewing the order and would fully comply with it.

“We have long said that the university has not and will not be taking steps to enforce HB2,” Joni Worthington, a spokeswoman for the university system, said in a statement late Friday.

Worthington echoed earlier comments by Margaret Spellings, president of the school system, in saying that the university was “caught in the middle of a conflict that we did not create between state law and federal guidance.”

“We welcome resolution of these issues by the court so that we can focus all of our efforts on our primary mission—educating students,” Worthington said.

The partial ruling, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, was hailed as a victory by rights groups.

The NCAA moving its championships was seen as an even bigger one.

Gail Dent, associate director of public relations for NCAA, previously told SDM she hopes the association can set an example for students, teaching them to stand up for what is right, even when it becomes an unpopular decision.

“Students are very vocal and observant today, so we hope that they look at NCAA principles and policy, which our membership created, when thinking about the importance and benefits of inclusion and diversity while they are in school and once they graduate. “

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