The Final Four this weekend will not feature the staff of the defending champion UConn Huskies as head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will not be traveling to Indianapolis for the proceedings.
After the highly-controversial religious freedom bill was passed in Indiana this week, the state of Connecticut announced that all state-funded travel to Indiana would cease. Gov. Dannel Malloy helped initiate the ban, and on Tuesday, the University of Connecticut decided to honor that.
UConn President Susan Herbst released a statement on the matter on Tuesday evening:
“In support of Governor Malloy’s travel ban to the state of Indiana, Kevin Ollie and other members of the UConn men’s basketball staff will not travel to Indianapolis for the NCAA Final Four and events surrounding it,” Herbst said in a statement. “UConn is a community that values all of our members and treats each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of their background and beliefs and we will not tolerate any other behavior.”
According to NBC Connecticut, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, also encouraged UConn coaches to take a stand by declining to attend the NABC conference in Indiana this week.
“I wouldn’t presume to give advice but if I were in their shoes I would stay away,” said Blumenthal. “I think they can send a very powerful message as all of us can.”
There will be many who chime in and say that UConn isn’t playing in Indianapolis this weekend, so this sort of gesture doesn’t matter. For the defending national championship head coach to not attend the NABC conference, or any Final Four festivities, does send a big message going forward.
It’ll be interesting to see if any other college basketball head coaches — or full college athletics programs — decide to make a similar decision heading into this weekend’s Final Four festivities. USC athletic director Pat Haden is also refusing to attend a scheduled college football playoff meeting in Indianapolis due to the passing of the Religious Freedom Act.