NCAA eyes host sites in states with anti-transgender laws

FILE - A large flag is unfurled in the outfield before the second game of the best-of-three championship series between Florida and Oklahoma in the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, in this Tuesday, June 6, 2017, file photo. The NCAA has reached a delicate moment: It must decide whether to punish states that have passed laws limiting the participation of transgender athletes by barring them from hosting its softball and baseball tournaments. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File) (Sue Ogrocki, AP2017)

INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA announced 20 potential host sites for the early rounds of its postseason baseball tournament Friday, including three states that have passed laws requiring athletes to compete in interscholastic sports according to their sex at birth.

The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee unveiled the sites for 16 NCAA regionals and eight super regionals. Those include five schools in states that have passed the laws: Arkansas, Southern Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee are also potential host sites for the NCAA's softball tournament.

The NCAA Board of Governors issued a statement April 12 saying it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.” The board said it would continue monitoring those situations.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” the board said.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn referred questions Friday to the board's earlier statement and said the NCAA had no further comment on the issue.

Legislation requiring athletes to compete in interscholastic sports according to their sex at birth has been introduced in dozens of states this year, and governors have signed bills in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia laws also cover college sports teams.

Human Rights Council President Alphonso David called for the NCAA to refuse to hold championships in states that have enacted the laws.

“To hold events in states that have passed these laws would be an unprecedented move for the NCAA and a clear violation of their policy,” David said.

Five years ago, the NCAA made good on its threat to pull basketball tournament games out of North Carolina in response to the “bathroom bill,” which required transgender people to use restrooms according to their sex at birth and not their gender identity. The law was later repealed.

Jeff Altier, the committee chairman and the athletic director at Stetson, said last month that his committee had been given no directive to exclude any school from consideration for hosting a regional.

“Certainly, this has been a unique season, but the committee is very appreciative of all of the schools that submitted bids to host," he said Friday. “We are extremely excited to bring the Division I Baseball Championship back in 2021 and let the student-athletes, coaches and fans once again experience this terrific event.”

The NCAA is using predetermined sites because of health and safety protocols surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and sites will be allowed up to 50% capacity based on recent guidance from the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group,.

The final 16 sites will be announced on May 30, with the full field announced the following day.