One state representative says Mississippi's college baseball programs could pay in the postseason for the state's "religious freedom" bill, but the NCAA gave no indication in a Wednesday statement if the state's teams could be prevented from hosting regional tournaments.
The NCAA said Wednesday it will "continue to monitor current events" in Mississippi in the fallout of the state's "religious freedom" bill that Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law last week.
The new state law, which takes effect July 1 (after postseason play) allows religious organizations, businesses and government employees to refuse service under specified circumstances to gay and transgender people.
The Democrat leading the effort to repeal HB 1523, Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Wednesday that the NCAA is considering preventing the state's colleges from hosting any rounds of this year's NCAA baseball championship tournament.
The NCAA released a statement to the Sun Herald on Wednesday when asked about Hughes' claim:
"We'll continue to monitor current events, which include issues surrounding diversity, in all cities bidding on NCAA championships and events, as well as cities that have already been named as future host sites. Our commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has not changed and is at the core of our NCAA values. It is our expectation that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect in cities that host our NCAA championships and events."
Ole Miss, USM and MSU are all in the hunt to host NCAA baseball regional tournaments this season.
All three teams are ranked in this week's Baseball America Top 25 and included in the top 16 of the NCAA's RPI rankings, putting them squarely in the discussion to host regionals.
Southern Miss is 25-8 and in first place in Conference USA with a record of 11-1.
MSU (23-9-1, 8-4) is ranked No. 2 in the nation by Baseball America and is in first place in the SEC West. Ole Miss (25-7, 6-6) is two games behind MSU in the SEC West and ranked No. 8 by Baseball America.
MSU, Ole Miss and USM consistently rank among the top 25 programs in the nation when it comes to baseball attendance, making all three schools attractive sites for NCAA regionals.
Ole Miss, USM and Mississippi State have all hosted NCAA baseball regionals in the past, despite the controversy surrounding the presence of the Confederate emblem on the state's flag.
The NCAA announced in 2001 that Mississippi would be banned from hosting pre-determined NCAA postseason events due to the state flag. The NCAA lifted its ban on South Carolina after the state removed the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds last year.