One would be hard-pressed to find merely a handful of examples of the NCAA's moral and economic anachronism in the twenty-first century, stolid as it is in the ways of purity and righteousness and the competitive American spirit. And so it comes as a surprise that, in its unwavering commitment to an ethical existence, the NCAA has finally dropped the ball this month.
In 2002, the National Collegiate Athletics Association placed a moratorium on hosting its championship competitions in South Carolina and Mississippi, due to the very noble reasoning that, since both U.S. states prominently fly the Rebel flag on their statehouse grounds, a national organization with country-wide breadth and appeal should not tacitly or otherwise condone such a strident banner of racism and hate. This was—and still is—a good thing.
Another good thing is the University of South Carolina's women's basketball team wrecking shop through the 2014-15 regular season and thus earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament—for the first time in school history. The Lady Gamecocks lost only two games this season, at UConn and at Kentucky, and are currently awaiting their Sweet 16 matchup with North Carolina on Friday night.
Because USC's women jumped into this year's tournament with a 1-seed, they, by rights, hosted their first two games of March Madness. This admirable feat and consequential home-court advantage immediately struck some as odd, however, because what about that NCAA prohibition on hosting tournament games within the borders of South Carolina? USC's Colonial Life Arena in fact rests less than a half mile from the state's absurdly-out-of-place Confederate-flag-bedecked statehouse. It's literally a 10 minute walk to the flagpole.
This is no small matter! What sort of mental gymnastics were required on the part of NCAA cognoscenti to allow this glitch to pass unflagged? What better way to pressure South Carolina's old, fat legislature into rethinking the face they're putting forward than to drag the USC women up to say, Greensboro (about a two-hour drive), for their first and second round games?
Why even institute a moratorium on SC-hosted games if that moratorium is in the end selective, malleable and ad hoc? What was the original purpose of the moratorium, beyond the bureaucratically obvious and cynically superficial pose of intolerance of the intolerant? If ever the NCAA could have demonstrated some backbone, if ever there was a better opportunity to face down a ridiculous, unpopular-in-its-own-state symbol of a dark, awful past, the NCAA should have refused Columbia as a host for this year's tournament.