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Cleveland: NCAA’s New Legislation

RickClevelandYes, the NCAA has passed new legislation that sounds as if it would prevent Mississippi schools from hosting NCAA baseball regionals and first and second round NCAA Women’s basketball regionals.

No, the new legislation will not affect who hosts baseball regionals this spring. It doesn’t go into effect until the next school year.

The new legislation, passed by the NCAA’s Board of Governors, requires that sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is “safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”

The NCAA legislation is an obvious response to laws like the recently passed Mississippi HB 1523, signed by Governor Phil Bryant last month. That law, which goes into effect July 1, allows private businesses, along with government workers, to deny services and goods to the LGBT community (or anyone, really) based on religious beliefs.

Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss all have teams that have won enough to be considered as a regional host this spring. Last week, Mississippi athletic directors were scrambling to learn what the new NCAA legislation actually means.

What they learned is that, beginning the 2016-17 school year, the universities will bear the burden of proof to show that their individual schools will run a discrimination-free, inclusive event.

“We don’t anticipate a problem,” said Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin. “That’s already how we operate.”

The same is true at Southern Miss and Ole Miss.

Essentially, the NCAA legislation will require more paperwork, which, in effect, says, “Although our state has passed this law, we choose not to enforce it on our campus.”

Mississippi remains the only state where pre-determined NCAA post-season events cannot be played because of the state’s flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag. South Carolina escaped the NCAA’s “banned” list when it removed the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds.

And then there was one: us.

On the field, Mississippi teams did what they needed to do to remain in contention to host.

  • State defeated Ole Miss in a mid-week game and then took two of three on the road from Alabama.
  • Ole Miss took two of three in a weekend series with highly ranked LSU.
  • Southern Miss knocked off nationally ranked Louisiana-Lafayette in a mid-week game and then salvaged one of three in a series with highly rated Florida Atlantic Sunday.

According to WarrenNolan.com RPI ratings, which closely approximates the NCAA’s, Ole Miss (33-12) entered the week at No. 7, Mississippi State (30-14-1) at No. 11 and Southern Miss (31-14) at No. 19.

State and Ole Miss definitely would host if the regionals were announced today. Both are still in the running for a national seed. USM needs a strong finish and it would certainly help the Golden Eagles if they could win the CUSA regular season title. They currently are tied with Rice, one game ahead of FAU. CUSA, ranked No. 4 (behind the SEC, ACC and Pac-12) in conference RPI, presumably will receive at least one host spot.

Bottom line: All three need to continue to win to earn a chance to play NCAA Tournament baseball at home. At least, they haven’t been thrown an un-hittable curve because of HB 1523.

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is rcleveland@msfame.com.

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Adam Brown
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