NCAA backs up SEC, prohibits postseason play in Mississippi until state flag is changed
The ball is in the Mississippi Legislature's court. If the state of Mississippi does not amend its flag, the ball will not be on the courts or fields of Magnolia State universities during postseason play.
A day after SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement saying the conference's championships will not take place in Mississippi until the Confederate emblem is removed from the state flag, the NCAA put forth an even harsher punishment.
In statement Friday morning, the NCAA prohibited postseason events of any kind from taking place in Mississippi until the symbol of the Confederacy is permanently removed from the flag. The announcement came on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the United States.
Postseason events include baseball regionals and super regionals, of which Mississippi State hosted both a year ago at Dudy Noble Field. Ole Miss also hosted a 2019 baseball super regional las at Swayze Field. As perennial college baseball powers, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are constantly in the conversation to host postseason tournaments. Southern Miss often joins that conversation, too.
The NCAA's ruling jeopardizes those schools' ability to keep partaking in the perk of hosting postseason play. It also harms Mississippi State women's basketball's chances of hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Humphrey Coliseum, which the Bulldogs have done every year since 2016. The 2019-20 team was in line to host once again until the coronavirus pandemic ended the season.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Friday's ruling came as an effort to ensure the NCAA's actions reflect a commitment to inclusion and support of all of its student-athletes.
"There is no place in college athletics or the world for symbols or acts of discrimination and oppression," said Michael V. Drake, the chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, who is also Ohio State University's president. "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 athletic director John Cohen supported Sankey's statement Thursday. He did the same with the NCAA's on Friday.
"Again, it is unfortunate that our hard-working student-athletes, staff and coaches could potentially be affected by something beyond their control, but we understand this is much bigger than athletics," Cohen said in a statement. "As previously stated, we will continue support for this long overdue change."
Representatives from Mississippi's eight public universities, including Mississippi State University president Mark Keenum and Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce, released a joint statement Friday afternoon. The representatives respected the NCAA's postseason ban.
"Today, we are committed to continuing to do our part to ensure Mississippi is united in its pursuit of a future that is free of racism and discrimination," they said in their statement. "Such a future must include a new state flag."
The representatives also noted the millions of dollars in revenue the state's universities could forego without postseason competition taking place on their campuses.
The postseason ban extends to Division III programs like Millsaps College, a program that previously requested the removal of the Confederate emblem in June 2015.
"Five years later, Millsaps College stands by that statement," the program's statement read. “The state flag of Mississippi has not flown over the Millsaps campus for years. We are and will increasingly be involved in dialogue about our own history as we work to ensure that our curriculum and our programs instruct us about our past and foster honest discussions aimed at a just and equitable society in the future.
“It is time for Mississippi to do the same.”
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