Because of all the chatter around the decision of the NCAA to not mention UNC Basketball and Football in its own most recent set of Allegations against the Tar Heels, another potentially important policy by the organization seems to have been looked overlooked. Last week the NCAA announced that it has passed an anti-discrimination provision for the awarding of NCAA Championship sites, requiring that states that seek to host its events “must demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.” The decision comes on the heels of the passing of HB 2 in North Carolina, a bill that restricts the ability of local entities to provide anti-discrimination provisions in their communities on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill has caused a great deal of controversy around the state with businesses, musical artists and the NBA threatening or sustaining boycotts of the state. The NCAA’s announcement provides that if North Carolina or other states, have such legislation in place starting next year, the NCAA will consider either not rewarding or pulling its championships away in those locations.
What does this all mean? Well on the surface it seems to mean that unless North Carolina changes its law, the NCAA will not allow any NCAA Tournament sites in North Carolina. That of course is huge. Over the course of the past 20 years, it has been a rare year when either the first and second rounds or occasionally the Regional itself, have not been played in North Carolina. With Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh picked as possible sites, the best North Carolina and Duke teams have been almost assured of essentially two home games on their way to the Final Four. This has undoubtedly had a positive impact and the high attendance at these locations is part of the reason for their assignment as hosts. If the state of North Carolina does not change its law this summer (the NCAA gave a July 1 deadline), beginning in 2017, such sites may no longer be allowed as hosts. That is a big deal.
Regardless of what you think about the legislation or the boycotts (feel free to debate in the comments section, although you can be assured that you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind in the process…rare is the person who has a belief on an issue and then changes that strongly held notion because of an anonymous comment on a blog), one thing is clear…they are having an impact. And while the economic longterm effect is still to be determined, from a strictly basketball standpoint HB 2 will have a negative impact on two of the biggest college basketball programs under the new NCAA policy. Will that be enough to change the law in a basketball obsessed state such as North Carolina (or keep such laws from being passed in oh say, Kentucky)? That remains to be seen.