The State of Indiana is due to host the NCAA’s Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis and suddenly, there will be a lot more discussion about it than just basketball. The NCAA is extremely concerned about a new law passed this week and signed by the governor allowing businesses in the state to discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender persons.
The last thing I want to do is make this blog into a political op-ed piece so I won’t. Instead, the NCAA can speak for me. President Mark Emmert voiced concerns in the hours after Indiana Governor Mark Pence signed the bill into law.
“We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” Emmert said. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
Where Emmert has to be most concerned is with the image of his organization looking as though they support the new measure by keeping the Final Four in the state capital. Logistically of course, moving the Final Four to another city so close to the event would be extremely difficult and very unlikely. Therefore it isn’t going to happen.
What could happen however could be much more substantial. The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis there would be intense pressure from many people to move the operations out of the Hoosier State. We’ve seen this type of thing before in Arizona when that state was refusing to recognize the national holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Several professional sports leagues and the NCAA threatened to no longer come there for their major events. Eventually, the measure passed in Arizona and the state has hosted Super Bowls, World Series games and NCAA tournament games in the years since. In other words, money usually can trump political discourse and if the NCAA chooses to leave they could become the pied piper leading other businesses and corporations out of town.
An Ode to Dean Smith
While I was never a fan of late North Carolina Coach Dean Smith mostly because I thought he should have won more titles, he proved to me what a class act he was when I saw what he left for his former players yesterday. Smith left behind about $36,000 in $200 increments for all of his former players. From Michael Jordan to James Worthy each former Tar Heel received a check from Smith’s estate with a letter.
The gist of the letter was basically to say “thank you” and to go spend the money on a nice dinner. While Smith certainly made plenty of money during his time running the Tar Heels’ program, he left the game right about the time when the massive contracts for collegiate coaches were really becoming the norm. Still, this was a very honest and caring thing for Smith to do and I certainly wanted to give props to him for it.