NCAA revisits Confederate flag policy

Updated 1/18/2007

By Steve Wieberg, USA TODAY

Amid calls for a broader crackdown, the NCAA is re-examining its policy against
staging championships in states that display the Confederate battle symbol.
The association’s Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee will begin weighing
options during meetings Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis. At stake is Clemson’s
and other schools’ eligibility to host baseball regionals and subregionals.

No recommendations are expected next week. "It would be a ways off, probably,
for anything to happen," committee chairman Robert Vowels says. His panel
is awaiting the outcome of local efforts to remove the Confederate flag from
state grounds in South Carolina, one of two states affected by the guidelines.

"We’re looking at the entire picture," Vowels says. "But our
dialogue recently has been mainly with South Carolina."

The state pulled the flag from its Capitol dome in Columbia in 2000 but still
flies it as part of a monument on Statehouse grounds. Mississippi incorporates
the Confederate symbol in its state flag.

The NCAA refuses to conduct preassigned championship events — those assigned
a site ahead of time, as basketball’s Final Four is each year — in either

At issue is whether to extend the ban to non-predetermined events, including
baseball’s lead-up to the College World Series in Omaha. Regionals are awarded
to 16 of the highest-seeded teams in the 64-team field and super regionals to
eight surviving high seeds.

Clemson and Mississippi hosted regionals and super regionals last June. South
Carolina also has as recently as 2004, and regionals were held at Mississippi
State and Southern Mississippi in 2003.

"Make it consistent across the board," says Otha Meadows, executive
director of the Charleston, S.C.-based Trident Urban League. "I just think
you’re spinning your wheels and you’re not really putting your teeth into it
if you say, ‘Well, we’re going to sanction these events. But we’re not going
to sanction those events.’ "

The Indianapolis-based Black Coaches Association also has urged the NCAA’s
minority opportunities committee to address the issue. A final decision would
be up to the association’s top-level Executive Committee, which drew up the
policy in April 2001.

It affects only basketball and football, the sports that preset and rotate
championship sites. Losing one of those events, the NCAA’s Charlotte Westerhaus
says, costs a state $5 million to $7 million.

Westerhaus, who oversees minority issues for the NCAA, suggests it might have
gone as far with restrictions as it’s going to, noting Clemson and other schools
have been careful to prohibit the imagery at events they host and have little
influence on state policies.

"I think the membership wanted to recognize that," she says, "and
doesn’t want to punish student-athletes who’ve earned the right to participate
in championships on those particular campuses."

Copyright 2007 USA TODAY

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