New NCAA Anti-Discrimination Rules Could Cost Houston

Controversy has swirled across the nation since North Carolina passed anti-transgender legislation. Major corporations have threatened to pull business from the state. Major entertainment acts have refused to perform and have canceled concerts, and the NBA has discussed pulling next year’s All Star game from the state. Prompted by this legislation (and similar legislation in Mississippi), and partly as a result of negative feedback received after the Final Four was held in Houston, despite the repeal of the city’s HERO legislation last year, the NCAA has issued new guidelines regarding how championship bids will be accepted.

“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” NCAA Board of Governors chairman and Kansas State President Kirk Schulz stated when discussing the new requirements. “So it is important that we assure that community — including our student-athletes and fans — will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”

The NCAA didn’t really go into detail regarding just what the new anti-discrimination guidelines say, or how the new guidelines will be applied. Essentially all that was stated by the association in its press release on that matter was that sites bidding on such 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.”

While the reports on this new NCAA legislation have dealt mainly with the impact on North Carolina, which now faces the threat that NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games set for the state in 2017 and 2018 will be revoked, there may be an impact on Houston. There’s the risk of no more NCAA Final Fours or Sweet 16/Elite Eight games at NRG Stadium. And it could also prevent UH, Rice, TSU, HBU, etc. from hosting postseason championship events, such as the NCAA Baseball Regionals that have, since Rice burst into the baseball stratosphere, become almost an annual occurrence in the city.

To make it worse, this would mean Houston would find itself at risk of continuously losing out on NCAA events to the Metroplex, Austin, San Antonio and other areas of the state that have passed anti-discrimination laws. And to make it even worse, as if it could be worse, Houston could lose out on business and events to a place like Dallas.

Then again, failed TV sportscaster turned lieutenant governor Dan Patrick seems to be going all in with his unwavering support for the North Carolina nonsense after having helped lead the effort to defeat Houston’s HERO legislation. And a statewide passage of anti-transgender legislation could put the entire state in the same position as North Carolina in the eyes of the NCAA when it comes to postseason events.

There are some who may laugh at the NCAA’s threats, but it should be noted that the NCAA currently prohibits states that display the Confederate flag from hosting championship events. And schools with nicknames found by Native Americans to be offensive are also forbidden to host championships.

So what happens? In the end, it all probably comes down to just what the NCAA guidelines actually end up being. Maybe it will be enough for the host institution itself to guarantee that the site will provide a safe, healthy environment free from discrimination while safeguarding the dignity of everyone attending or participating in the event. And it’s easy to see how places like Rice or the University of Houston could provide such environments.

Then again, perhaps the NCAA will require in its guidelines that host sites guarantee that participants and attendees have access to restroom facilities throughout the city, without fear of reprisal, criminal sanction or physical attack. And if that ends up being the case, then it would be impossible for any of the institutions in Houston to host NCAA championship events because there is no way that a Rice or UH could guarantee an environment free of discrimination. 

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