The NCAA’s Board of Governors put its clout behind a change in Mississippi’s state flag with a dramatic move on Friday morning.
The current NCAA ban, in place since 2001, prevents states from hosting what the NCAA calls predetermined championship sites, such as for men’s basketball tournament games. Mississippi is the only state currently affected by the policy.
The expanded policy means that even when sites of NCAA events are determined by performance, as they are in sports such as baseball, women’s basketball and lacrosse, Mississippi schools will not be permitted to host. Mississippi’s two Southeastern Conference schools, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State, regularly host NCAA baseball regional and super regional games.
Mississippi’s flag incorporates the Confederate battle emblem.
As the statement from the Board of Governors noted, “Mississippi is the only state currently affected by the Association’s policy.”
On Thursday, the SEC announced it would no longer hold conference-sponsored championship events in Mississippi until the state flag is changed. The move came with the calls for change from administrators from both Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Mississippi State has hosted 14 NCAA baseball regionals and three super regionals, most recently in 2019. Ole Miss has hosted nine regionals, most recently in 2019, and three super regionals. Southern Miss has hosted regionals twice (2003, 2017).
MSU’s women hosted games in the first two rounds of the NCAA basketball tourney for four-consecutive years beginning in 2016.
The NCAA Confederate flag policy was enacted in 2001 due to the flag’s prominence in various states at that time.
“There is no place in college athletics or the world for symbols or acts of discrimination and oppression,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of the Ohio State University, in a statement on Friday. “We must continually evaluate ways to protect and enhance the championship experience for college athletes. Expanding the Confederate flag policy to all championships is an important step by the NCAA to further provide a quality experience for all participants and fans.”
Mississippi State president Mark Keenum issued a statement shortly after Greg Sankey’s statement was published.
“Since 2015, our Student Association, Robert Holland Faculty Senate and university administration have been firmly on record in support of changing the state flag,” Keenum said in the statement. “I have reiterated that view to our state’s leaders on multiple occasions, including during face-to-face discussions in recent days and hours. On June 12, I wrote to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Mississippi House reaffirming that support. The letter said, in part, that our flag should be unifying, not a symbol that divides us. I emphasized that it is time for a renewed, respectful debate on this issue.”
Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce and vice chancellor for Intercollegiate athletics Keith Carter also issued a statement saying, “The University of Mississippi community concluded years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others. In 2015, the university stopped flying the state flag over our campus. Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us. We support the SEC’s position for changing the Mississippi state flag to an image that is more welcoming and inclusive for all people.”
In recent weeks, a number of symbols from the Confederacy have been removed from across the United States.
On June 10, NASCAR announced it would prohibit the presence of the Confederate flag from all events and properties.
The executive panel reviewed the policy in 2014, per a request by the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee. The policy remained unchanged at that time, which allowed schools competing in sports such as baseball, softball, lacrosse and later women’s basketball the opportunity to host preliminary non-determined championship events in their home state, which included Mississippi. That will no longer be allowed under the expanded flag policy.