NCAA President Mark Emmert says it’s up to the Atlantic Coast Conference and its members whether to follow the association’s lead and pull events out of North Carolina because of a state law that some say can lead to discrimination against LGBT people.
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Emmert said the association expects to take a financial hit for moving seven championship events and tournament games out of the state on short notice, but how much is unknown.
New locations have yet to be identified, he said, but Emmert said his staff is working aggressively to find sites for some events scheduled for as soon as December. The biggest of the events that will be relocated is first-round men’s basketball tournament games scheduled for Greensboro in March.
The ACC is also on the clock to make its decision about its football championship game, set to be played in Charlotte on Dec. 3.
The ACC’s council of presidents was set to hold a previously scheduled meeting starting Tuesday night in Clemson, South Carolina, with the law expected to be discussed Wednesday.
The football championship game, held in Charlotte since 2010, is the last marquee college sporting event left in North Carolina during the 2016-17 season. While ACC Commissioner John Swofford it would be “premature” to make any decisions about holding events in North Carolina for now, he also issued a clear statement Monday night against the law.
“On a personal note, it’s time for this bill to be repealed as it’s counter to basic human rights,” said Swofford, whose league office is located in North Carolina.
Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson, whose school is a member of the ACC, is the newly elected chairman of the NCAA board of governors, which unanimously voted to relocate the association’s events out of North Carolina.
Emmert said the NCAA will stay out of conference decisions.
“That’s going to be completely up to the conferences,” Emmert said. “There’s, of course, Division II and III conferences that have a lot of events in North Carolina as well. They’ll have plenty of people involved in the debate that were also engaged with the NCAA. But those are going to be individual decisions, not national association’s. Nor should they be.”
In a news release Monday, the NCAA said the decision by its board of governors came “because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”
The law — known as HB2 — requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections.
HB2 was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year. A spokesman with McCrory’s office couldn’t be reached for comment Monday evening, but a spokeswoman with the state Republican party blasted the NCAA’s decision in a statement, saying it is “so absurd it’s almost comical.”
“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” spokeswoman Kami Mueller said.
Emmert told the AP the two issues are not related.
“This is an issue in the midst of a political season that is clearly going to stir a lot of debate and discussion on both sides of the issue,” he said. “The decision, of course, occurred completely independent of what kind of year it was around politics. Obviously, this is in no way correlated to what is obviously a very serious issue around sexual assault and sexual misconduct on university campuses.”
The only championship events that can be hosted in North Carolina this academic year are ones determined when a team earns the right to play on its own campus.
The NCAA said it will relocate the men’s basketball first- and second-round games that were scheduled for March 17 and 19 in Greensboro. The NCAA will also relocate:
- the Division I women’s soccer championship scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary, just outside the capital of Raleigh;
- the Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships set for Dec. 2 and 3 in Greensboro;
- the Division I women’s golf regional championships set for May 8-10 in Greenville;
- the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships set for May 22-27 in Cary;
- the Division I women’s lacrosse championship set for May 26 and 28 in Cary;
- and the Division II baseball championship from May 27 to June 3 in Cary.
- In its announcement, the NCAA took special note of ways North Carolina’s law differs from other states.
“At the end of the day, the board was looking at the core values of college sports in America,” Emmert told the AP. “That these are about sports that are conducted within the context of higher education and the values of fairness of inclusion are so central to what we all believe in, that the law HB2 that was passed as the most comprehensive of the laws that have been enacted around limiting LGBT rights, was just a bridge too far.
“It would have been impossible to conduct championship events in the state with that law in place that lived up to the values and expectations of the member universities and colleges.”
AP Sports Writer Ralph D. Russo can be followed on Twitter @ralphDrussoAP. AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.