ASHEVILLE – Days after the NCAA pulled seven championship events out of North Carolina because of HB2, Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino hinted there was a possibility that the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments could be pulled from Asheville.
Wednesday after the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) pulled eight tournaments out of the state, lamarino told WFMY News 2's Chad Silber they may also pull their golf tournament from Pinehurst. Iamarino also said they're not waiting until the October meeting to decide, they're having the HB2 discussion next week since the golf tournament is scheduled for November.
Speaking Tuesday by phone from his office in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Iamarino told the Asheville Citizen-Times, their upcoming meetings in October and November could result in the tournament being moved to a site outside of North Carolina.
“We have meetings of athletic administrators in October and meetings of presidents and chancellors in early November and this subject is on both agendas. I’m sure will have a full discussion and figure out what the response will be to the NCAA's decision,” Iamarino said.
When asked specifically if the tournament scheduled for early March could be moved as late as November, he responded, “It’s going to be the membership’s decision and we understand that any decision that the membership will make is independent of what the NCAA’s decision was. In other words the NCAA doesn’t tell conferences you’ve got to follow suit or you can’t play your championship in a certain location.
“That’s ultimately our decision as a conference. I wouldn’t rule anything in or out at this point.”
HB2 is a state law that some say can lead to discrimination against LGBT people. The law requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections.
Asheville has hosted the SoCon basketball tournament since 2012 and is scheduled to keep the tournament through 2021. The 2017 tournament is scheduled for March 2-6 with all games at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Western Carolina and UNC Greensboro are the only schools from North Carolina in the Southern Conference. Other schools in the league are Chattanooga; The Citadel; East Tennessee State; Furman; Mercer; Samford; Virginia Military Institute; and Wofford.
Demp Bradford, executive director of the Asheville Regional Sports Commission, which helps run the tournament, said Iamarino called him Tuesday and informed him of what the process would take place between the league and its members in the coming weeks.
"In his statement he outlined our case for Asheville and that is we are an open inclusionary, diverse, welcoming city that has embraced the Southern Conference," Bradford said. "And I don't think that has changed from last year. We are going to work with them to provide, in the words of (NCAA president) Mark Emmert, a safe, respectable environment and the best experience possible for their athletes, fans and everyone taking part in that championship."
K. Ray Bailey, a former Buncombe County commissioner and a member of the sports commission board, said he is proceeding with his tournament tasks as if it will be held in Asheville as scheduled.
"We have received no indication they they're going to move it," he said.
The NCAA said it made its decision for moving the tournaments out of North Carolina partly because of how North Carolina’s law differs from the rest of the country.
“At the end of the day, the board was looking at the core values of college sports in America,” Emmert told the Associated Press. “That these are about sports that are conducted within the context of higher education and the values of fairness of inclusion are so central to what we all believe in, that the law HB2 that was passed as the most comprehensive of the laws that have been enacted around limiting LGBT rights, was just a bridge too far.
“It would have been impossible to conduct championship events in the state with that law in place that lived up to the values and expectations of the member universities and colleges.”
The NCAA said it will relocate the men’s basketball first- and second-round games that were scheduled for March 17 and 19 in Greensboro. Other events affected by the decision are:
— The Division I women’s soccer championship scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary.
—The Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships on Dec. 2 and 3 in Greensboro;
— The Division I women’s golf regional championships set for May 8-10 in Greenville;
— The Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships set for May 22-27 in Cary;
— The Division I women’s lacrosse championship set for May 26 and 28 in Cary;
— and the Division II baseball championship from May 27 to June 3 in Cary.
The ACC football championship is scheduled to be held Dec. 3 for Charlotte. ACC commissioner John Swofford issued a strong statement against HB2.
“On a personal note, it’s time for this bill to be repealed as it’s counter to basic human rights,” said Swofford, who added it was premature to talk about this year’s game being moved to another location.
The ACC men’s basketball tournament will be held in Brooklyn in 2017 and 2018.
The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans instead of hosting it in Charlotte as originally scheduled because of the law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Copyright 2016 WFMY