College Sports

NCAA’s decision to bring back championships to NC gets mixed reaction

The NCAA’s placement of 35 championships at North Carolina sites is cause for celebration to some, but not everyone is satisfied with the decision.

The NCAA pulled tournament games from North Carolina after last year’s passage of controversial House Bill 2. But the association made the state eligible again for games after Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, facing a reported NCAA-imposed deadline, negotiated a compromise to replace the law.

Many state and local officials were happy to get the news, but a few advocacy groups condemned the decision, accusing the NCAA of turning its back on the LGBT community.

Doug McRainey, director of Cary’s parks, recreation and cultural resources department, said he was relieved to see the championships return.

When NCAA relocated championships in 2016, Cary took a significant hit, losing four championships. On Tuesday, the town was awarded the 2018 and 2020 Division I women’s College Cup soccer tournament, the 2019 and 2021 Division I men’s College Cup soccer tournament and the 2019-2022 Division II men’s baseball championships.

“We were very hopeful that we would be getting back those sports,” McRainey said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we were really pleased with the decision.”

The College Cup has an economic impact for Cary of between $400,000 and $500,000 a year and baseball brings in over $800,000 a year, McRainey said. The economic impact of the 13 Raleigh and Cary championships are expected to be nearly $12 million, said Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

UNC President Margaret Spellings said in a statement that she was pleased to see the NCAA bringing back championship play and eagerly awaits their return.

“These events are great opportunities to showcase remarkable student athletes, provide an arena for fans to celebrate our state’s proud tradition of collegiate sports, and spur economic activity across our communities and the state. And we continue to applaud our elected leaders for recent efforts to make this opportunity possible,” she said.

House Bill 142 repealed HB2, including its regulations on bathroom access by transgender people, but restricts local governments’ authority to create their own non-discrimination ordinances through 2020.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina delivered more than 77,000 petition signatures to the NCAA urging the organization to keep events out of North Carolina, according to a news release from the state ACLU chapter.

“When the NCAA originally withdrew events from North Carolina, they did so because they claimed to care about ‘fairness and inclusion’ for college athletes and fans,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement. “It’s a shame to see that those concerns have already fallen by the wayside.”

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC also condemned the NCAA’s decision and accused it of rewarding the state even though they said HB 142 still discriminates.

“HB 142 was a cheap political trick that did nothing to alleviate the concerns the NCAA initially outlined when it pulled games from the Tar Heel state last year, and even adds new forms of discrimination to North Carolina’s laws,” Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said. “It is unthinkable that the NCAA would abandon its commitment to LGBTQ fans, players, and administrators by falling for this trick.”

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