GREENVILLE, SC – The Gamecocks are hitting a real fly two-step as their NCAA Tournament run continues after upsetting 2nd seeded Duke 88-81, and even though the squad won the game on the court, the state of South Carolina lost the one off of it.
Greenville was awarded these 1st and 2nd round tournament games, which were originally supposed to be held in Greensboro, “based on the NCAA’s commitment to fairness and inclusion” in response to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.
Here’s a portion of their official statement announcing the game’s relocation:
In its decision Monday, the Board of Governors emphasized that NCAA championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state, the board said.
“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. “We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships.”
Many, including myself, praised the NCAA for taking such a bold stance on a discriminatory law. One man’s loss is another man’s gain, so for the first time in 15 years a South Carolina school was awarded the games as Greensboro’s replacement. But as I pulled up to the arena to cover today’s events, I was greeted with this…
I don’t have to go into detail about the meaning of this flag. Its divisive and racist history and what is symbolizes is the reason the state hasn’t hosted a tournament game in over a decade.
After the win, I asked South Carolina head coach Frank Martin about what media, fans and even players were greeted with as they arrived at the Wellness Arena:
It’s unfortunate, but it’s America. And you think we all agree on everything? Our state is united. Our state believes in peace and harmony. That’s why this event is being held in our state right now. Our state’s progressive. Our state has incredible people that’s about moving forward.
But it’s America. We have freedoms. People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property. It is what it is.
There’s things out there that I don’t like. But I can’t force people to do what I want them to do. All I know is this unbelievable university and state has taken in a son of Cuban immigrants that’s married to a Jamaican woman, has mixed kids, and they’ve treated me like I’m one of their own from day one.
I wouldn’t want to coach in any other state or on any other group of people, for any other bosses than the ones I’ve got. Our alums, our community is a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s a united state. Unfortunately things like that happen but we live in the United States of America. And we don’t all agree on things.
Martin gave a passionately great, albeit rose-colored, politically correct response. I would never use the word “progressive” to describe South Carolina. And I think it’s important to point out that his experience as the head basketball coach at the state’s largest university is much different than its every-day citizens. But Martin is correct. Those people have the right to do what they want. I just find it ironic that North Carolina was stripped of these games based on a commitment to promote a “safe a respectful environment” and the very players who bring joy to the fans in the stands and money to the pockets of everyone but themselves, can’t pull up to to the arena without being subjected to a hateful reminder of where they are.
I know some will say this is a bash fest, but I have unique perspective. I’m from South Carolina. I’m a proud graduate of Irmo High School. My family is from South Carolina. My roots are in Orangeburg. My mom was the first African American undergrad to attend Winthrop University – opening doors for others to follow and allow the school to boast one of most diverse student populations in the state. I’m an insider. I know those flag bearers don’t represent everyone in the state, but I also know its culture and this isn’t abnormal. So while many will cheer the victory over Duke on the court, South Carolina lost a much more important one off of it.
- South Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 or more teams. The Gamecocks improved to 69 alltime in NCAA Tournament play.
- The Gamecocks have advanced to face Baylor in New York City; the two programs last played in 2014-15
- The Blue Devils were ranked seventh in both polls this week; the win was South Carolina’s first over a top10 team since a 6460 win over No. 9 Iowa State on Jan. 3, 2015.