In politics, as in sports, you don’t always get what you deserve. North Carolina got what it needed from the NCAA on Tuesday, but not what it deserved.
If the NCAA was serious about honoring the commitment it made to LGBT rights back in September when it pulled this year’s events from North Carolina and threatened to exclude the state entirely from this round of bidding, it would have found a way to reward North Carolina for acknowledging the error of its ways while still punishing it for not fully repealing House Bill 2, some interim position designed to encourage the state to be more welcoming to the NCAA’s constituents.
That’s not what happened. North Carolina went right back to most favored nation status with the NCAA over the four-year bid cycle announced Tuesday, landing 26 events encompassing 35 different championships, including the beloved first and second rounds of the men’s basketball tournament in 2020 and 2021. Only three states were awarded more: Pennsylvania, Florida and Indiana. Ohio, California and Texas were just behind.
The NBA, NCAA and ACC were all, to varying degrees, involved in brokering the inadequate compromise known as HB142, a step forward from HB2 but only a partial one, thanks to the unwillingness of the Republican majority to countenance the full, necessary repeal of HB2, and the new deal gave everyone the political cover they needed to get back in business with North Carolina. So they did. Or will shortly, in the case of the NBA.
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North Carolina did get slapped around a little bit. The basketball subregionals were either going to be a 3/1 or 2/2 split between North and South Carolina, and Greenville, S.C., won out in 2022 over Charlotte. The state was passed over yet again for a men’s basketball regional, as it has been since 2008.
The Town of Cary, GRSA and Campbell fought for years to land the women’s lacrosse championship they lost this spring because of HB2, but didn’t get another shot. Cary missed out on a bunch of lower-division events for which it submitted bids, like Division III softball and tennis. St. Augustine’s bid to host the Division II track championships at N.C. State, but was somewhat surprisingly passed over considering George Williams’ stature in the track world and his 38 national titles.
But for the most part, the state got what it wanted, leaving unanswered the question of what happens when a public school from one of the states that still has travel bans to North Carolina makes a championship held here.
Men’s basketball is back, in Greensboro in 2020 and Raleigh in 2021. Greensboro will host a women’s basketball regional in 2019. WakeMed Soccer Park will host either the men’s or women’s College Cup in each of the four years. N.C. State landed its first-ever rifle championship at newly renovated Reynolds Coliseum in 2022. The Division II College World Series resumes its residency in Cary.
All told, it’s a credible haul that puts North Carolina squarely in the upper percentiles of states hosting NCAA championships in this cycle, even if Pennsylvania, Florida and Indiana all have more.
It’s hard to compare this bid cycle with the last, which had different sports making selections at different times, but roughly speaking, the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance had 12 successful bids the last time around. Tuesday, it ended up with 13.
“In all honesty, I’m thrilled with the announcements,” GRSA executive director Scott Dupree said. “I was cautiously optimistic but truthfully I had no idea what to expect. This process is so incredibly competitive, talking about cities and universities and venues nationally, plus the HB2 factor. I don’t know what kind of factor that may or may not have been, hanging over us.”
Turns out, it wasn’t much of a factor at all. Only seven months after the NCAA took a principled stand on behalf of its LGBT athletes, coaches, administrators and fans, it passed on the opportunity to match the degree of HB2 repeal with decisions that acknowledged progress while still encouraging further change. Instead, it’s back to business as usual, in North Carolina and elsewhere.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock