Possibility has become reality for South Carolina.
Thursday’s bill signaling the end of the Confederate flag’s stay on the Statehouse grounds has prompted the NCAA to lift its boycott on predetermined championship sites in the state. Cities in South Carolina are now eligible to host NCAA basketball tournaments, conference baseball tournaments and even bowl games.
“We commend South Carolina lawmakers for taking this action to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds,” NCAA Board of Governors representative Kirk Schulz said in a statement.
“For nearly 15 years we have specifically protested the flag by not allowing states like South Carolina to host pre-selected NCAA championships. With the impending change, and consistent with our policy, South Carolina may bid to host future NCAA championships once the flag no longer flies at the Statehouse grounds.”
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USC athletics director Ray Tanner thought that the boycott, in place since 2001, would end soon after the flag came down. On Wednesday, he spoke of the opportunities that the Gamecocks’ Colonial Life Arena – and the state’s other venues – could earn.
“There have been some opportunities that have not been possible in the past that we would get a chance to engage in,” Tanner said. “If the flag is removed and the sanctions are lifted, then we can bid for events, whether it’s a women’s regional championship or basketball for the men, the first or second rounds, and other events around the state.”
Thursday’s announcements give USC and the state those chances. The CLA and Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena can bid on postseason basketball tournaments, the state’s baseball fields can bid on conference tournaments and perhaps Charleston will re-visit an idea the NCAA had turned down under the boycott – a “Palmetto Bowl” or “Legends Bowl” to be played at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium.
USC will check to see when bids for events are due and get to work on finalizing proposals. CLA couldn’t be used for an SEC postseason basketball tournament or an NCAA women’s basketball regional (third and fourth rounds) because it is the Gamecocks’ home arena, but it could be used for an NCAA men’s basketball regional. Men’s teams in the NCAA tournament would not be assigned to their home gym.
Bon Secours could host any basketball event and any of the state’s minor-league ballparks could host ACC or SEC tournaments. USC plans tol work with Greenville for those events.
USC or the state is very unlikely to see an event for quite some time. Basketball regional sites have been chosen through 2018 and baseball postseason tournaments have likewise been filled for the foreseeable future. But the Gamecocks will be in position to nab events in the next decade, instead of watching NCAA tournaments in Charlotte, Raleigh or Duluth, Ga.
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If the Confederate flag is removed from Statehouse grounds, the NCAA most likely would lift its ban on pre-determined postseason events in South Carolina. What could that mean for the future?
▪ NCAA men’s basketball regionals: Sites have been pre-determined through 2018, but Colonial Life Arena and Bon Secours Wellness Arena could host
▪ NCAA women’s basketball regionals: Sites for the first two rounds are merit-based, but the third and fourth-round regionals could be hosted at Bon Secours (CLA could not because it is USC’s home arena). Regional sites have been pre-determined through 2018.
▪ SEC/ACC league basketball tournaments: The SEC men’s tournament has been booked through 2025, and the ACC men have been booked through 2020. The ACC women are booked through 2017, but Greenville could host the SEC women in 2017 (CLA could not because it is USC’s home arena).
▪ League baseball tournaments: Greenville, Charleston and Myrtle Beach have parks to host, while Columbia’s new minor-league stadium will be completed by 2016. The SEC’s agreement with Hoover, Ala., ends in 2016 and the ACC’s agreement with Durham, N.C., ends in 2018.
▪ Bowl games: Charleston lobbied for a “Palmetto Bowl” in 2004 but was turned down. Williams-Brice Stadium and Clemson’s Memorial Stadium could potentially host bowls.