Greensboro Lobbying to Keep NCAA Tournament Amid HB2 Backlash

It is still unclear how a new rule from the NCAA will impact the ability of certain cities in North Carolina to host the men’s basketball tournament in future years.

At least one potential host site is taking a proactive approach when fighting to keep its share of March Madness.

The NCAA Board of Governors adopted a rule last week that will require sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

This rule does not mention North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 in particular, but it was passed by the board just over one month after North Carolina’s law was passed through the General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory in a whirlwind special session on March 23.

GOP leadership has continued to call the law “common sense” legislation that protects North Carolinians. Meanwhile, the state is being sued by groups who maintain the law is among the worst pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation. HB2 requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. The law also strips local nondiscrimination ordinances that went beyond the statewide policy and makes other changes to local ordinances.

Now this new legislation appears to jeopardize a tradition in the Tar Heel state, hosting NCAA Tournament basketball games – and raking in money – during the early postseason festivities.

Greensboro Coliseum vs. Time Warner Cable Arena

The new NCAA rule seems to directly impact the Greensboro Coliseum, which is owned and operated by the city, as the Coliseum prepares to host the first two rounds of the men’s basketball tournament next March.

Meanwhile, the City of Charlotte owns 2018 host site Time Warner Cable Arena, but the operations of the facility fall under the purview of the Charlotte Hornets, according to city officials.

The distinction means that it is hard to find a scenario where the Coliseum would be exempted from the portion of HB2 that requires multi-occupancy restrooms in public agencies to “be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.”

A statement from an NCAA spokesperson said the cities would have to prove they could host the events to the NCAA.

“The information must be reported to the Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity and full implementation is expected.”

Greensboro Mayor’s Proactive Approach

From an economics standpoint, the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau is projecting that hosting the first two rounds of the 2017 NCAA Tournament will result in nearly $14.5 million worth of an economic boost to the city.

In a letter provided to WCHL dated April 12, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan wrote to NCAA President Mark Emmert to tout the city’s inclusive nature – even before the NCAA adopted the new rule.

Vaughan wrote, “I wanted to personally assure you that the City of Greensboro is a progressive, open-minded community with a long-standing tradition of support for members of the LGBT community.”

Vaughan told Emmert that the City Council had passed a resolution opposing House Bill 2 by an 8-1 vote at a meeting on April 5 and that a 2015 evaluation from the Human Rights Campaign determined Greensboro had the highest Municipal Equality Index among any city in the Carolinas.

The letter from Vaughan said that the Coliseum “has been at the forefront of this issue, having gender neutral restrooms available for over 20 years.” Vaughan said that these facilities are offered “for the comfort and inclusion of all patrons.”

A spokesperson with the Greensboro Coliseum Complex said in an e-mail that they have not heard directly from the NCAA as of late last week and that the letter from Vaughan “hopefully addressed any potential concerns of Greensboro as a host city/site.”

Varying Levels of Enforcement

The line differentiating enforcement requirements for the Coliseum and TWC Arena is blurry, even to those trained to find them.

Trey Allen, an assistant professor of Public Law and Government at the UNC School of Government, wrote in an e-mail to WCHL that, “It seems pretty clear to me that [the multiple occupancy bathroom] requirement extends to a civic center that is owned and operated by a municipality.” But he adds, “HB2 doesn’t expressly address the extent to which its bathroom provisions apply in such a situation.” Allen went on to say that arguments could be made from each side whether TWC Arena would fall under the purview of HB2 and that “clarification by the General Assembly or the courts may be necessary to resolve this issue.”

Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, via spokesperson Mike Meno, said they believe “the best reading of HB2 is that it would apply to arenas that are owned by localities in the state.” That would go beyond the Coliseum to being enforced in a situation where the building is leased to a private tenant, as it is in Charlotte.

Officials with the City of Charlotte and within the Hornets organization did not respond to a request for comment regarding the enforcement of HB2 in TWC Arena.

No More NCAA Tournament in NC?

North Carolina has been a popular destination for the NCAA Tournament. TWC Arena has hosted the event in 2008, 2011 and 2015. The Coliseum has hosted the men’s basketball tournament games on 13 occasions, according to Vaughan’s letter to Emmert. PNC Arena in Raleigh – which is owned by the Centennial Authority, a body created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1995 – has also been a popular destination for early round games.

Whether the NCAA Tournament will be making a return trip to Tobacco Road remains to be seen.

Villanova Knocks off UNC for National Championship

The Villanova Wildcats knocked off the North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday night for the school’s second national title.

The Tar Heels led at the half, but Villanova quickly grabbed a second half lead that the Wildcats held throughout the entire second half.

Villanova junior Kris Jenkins, Nate Britt’s legal brother, hit a three-point shot as time expired for a 77-74 win.

Brothers Jenkins and Britt Prepare for National Championship Showdown

Kris Jenkins has grown into being one of the best players on a Villanova team that will be playing for the national championship on Monday night.

But Jenkins may not be on the Villanova roster right now preparing for a national championship game without his brother, who he will be playing against on Monday, Nate Britt.

The story of the brotherhood of Jenkins and Britt gained national attention when Jenkins was spotted cheering for UNC in the Elite Eight after Villanova had already advanced to the Final Four.

While the two are not brothers by blood, Britt’s parents have been Jenkins legal guardians since 2007.

“We were recruiting Nate,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said describing the unique recruiting process that led to the Wildcats landing Jenkins. “And we liked Kris. But we just thought, you know what, he’s overweight, and he’s not going to come in and do all the stuff we do.”

Wright said that he told Jenkins that he liked his game, but things would not be easy for him if he came to Villanova.

“You’re going to have to come in here and change your diet; you’re going to have to work out hard; you’re going to have to get your body fat tested,” Wright recalled telling Jenkins. “That’s what we want you do.”

Wright said that Nate Britt Sr. later told the coaching staff that Jenkins loved what he heard in that meeting.

“And we said, to each other, ‘Hey, if he loved that, we want this guy,’” Wright remembered telling other members of the coaching staff.

Wright added that it has been impressive to watch Jenkins develop.

“He came in from day one and as a college freshman had to watch what he ate, had to get tested every morning, had to ride a bike extra to get his weight down. It’s unbelievable. And he continues to get better and better. I think you haven’t even seen the best of him yet.”

Jenkins and Britt played together in high school and have not met during their collegiate careers.

On Monday night, they will meet on the biggest of stages.

No. 2 Villanova Ready for Tough Matchup with No. 1 UNC in National Championship

No. 2 seed Villanova has advanced through the NCAA Tournament with margins of victory of 30, 19, 23, five and 44. That 44-point margin came in the Final Four victory over Oklahoma and was the largest margin of victory in Final Four history.

That said, Villanova head coach Jay Wright knows it will be a tough matchup against UNC on Monday night.

“We know we’re going to play a really tough team that’s probably playing the best basketball in the country right now,” Wright said at his press conference on Sunday.

The game pits the slower, slug-it-out style of play of Villanova against the high-octane offense of North Carolina.

“The matchups are unique,” Wright said. “We are different teams. And it is going to be a battle of wills because they do some things really well that we don’t; we have perimeter play that’s a lot different than theirs; obviously, we’re going to have to deal with their size, their length, their rebounding, their inside game.

“This is going to be a hell of a game.”

Wright pointed to limiting North Carolina’s offensive rebounding as a key to a Wildcat victory.

“It’s not just length and athleticism, it’s scheme to have those guys around the basket, it’s desire,” Wright said. “We’ve got to scheme against it, and we’ve got to have the toughness and aggressiveness to want to go get it like they do.”

After being the preseason number one team in the country, the Tar Heels had some ups and downs throughout the season before winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament championships.

Villanova also had some dominating stretches throughout the season, and Wright says this game matches up the two teams playing the best basketball right now.

“I think what you’re seeing is a season where there weren’t dominant players, there weren’t dominant teams,” Wright said. “And then you’re seeing a season where two teams just continued to get better and better and better and better.”

UNC Preparing for Hot-Shooting Villanova in National Championship Game

The North Carolina Tar Heels are playing some of the best basketball in the country heading into the school’s 10th national championship game.

UNC has won every NCAA Tournament game so far by double digits and was the only No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four in Houston.

As great as the Tar Heels have been playing, they will be going up a team with possibly even more momentum.

Villanova is coming off of record 44-point victory over Oklahoma in the national semifinal where the Wildcats shot 71 percent from the field.

Those numbers jumped off the page to UNC sophomore forward Justin Jackson.

“That’s hard to do whenever you’re shooting by yourself,” Jackson said. “That’s eye-opening, both [the margin and percentage]. So we’ve got to be ready to play against a really good team.”

UNC sophomore guard Joel Berry said that the margin of victory shows that Villanova is not only a team that can shoot very well but also plays good defense.

“They shot 71 percent, but the defensive end they were able to stop [Oklahoma] and especially one of the best players in the country,” Berry said. “They take pride in that.”

UNC head coach Roy Williams says that he believes his team is ready for the title matchup and that they have enjoyed the ride so far in the tournament.

“I think my guys up here are really focused,” Williams said. “They enjoy having a lot of fun. They’re a bunch of wackos, so I’m following their lead as we get to this stage.”

Williams said that this team is very different than the 2009 North Carolina team that won the national championship the year after losing in the Final Four.

“2009 we walked in the locker room and Bobby Frasor says, ‘I don’t want anybody messing around, you know what this felt like last year,’” Williams recalled. “And it was business. There wasn’t any dancing around in the locker room. There wasn’t any of that silly stuff we’re doing now. But this is a completely different team.”

Williams said there’s only so much he can do relying on previous experience because it is the first time the players are in this situation.

“We’re playing a very good Villanova team for a coach who’s been in the Final Four before,” Williams said. “I think that I’ve know a little bit more about what’s going on, but I don’t know that I can transfer that to the court.

“And they’re the guys that make the difference.”

If the Tar Heels come out on top, it will be the third national championship for Williams, a feat only accomplished by John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp, Jim Calhoun and Bob Knight.

“That’s company that is off the charts,” Williams said. “But what I’d really really love is for these guys up here sitting on this dais with me to get their first one. That would mean a heck of a lot more to me than any of that other stuff.”

The third national title for Williams would also move him ahead of Tar Heel legend Dean Smith’s two national titles.

National Championship Viewing Party at Smith Center

UNC fans will once again be able to gather at the Dean Smith Center to watch the Tar Heels take on Villanova in the national championship game on Monday night.

While the game will be played in Houston, Chapel Hill will be serving as a major satellite with Tar Heel fans from around the area coming to watch the game at the Smith Center or on Franklin Street.

The game will be shown on a large projection screen and the video boards, as was the Final Four win over Syracuse.

Doors will open at eight o’clock Monday night for students, faculty and staff before opening at 8:30 for the general public.

Parking will be available in the Manning, Bowles, Craige and Ramshead parking lots for $5.

Final Four Bound! UNC’s Win Over Notre Dame Provides Much-Needed Relief

After his team’s 88-74 victory in Philadelphia over No. 6 seed Notre Dame in the East Regional Final on Sunday night—it’s safe to say that UNC head coach Roy Williams might finally be able to get some sleep.

His top-seeded Tar Heels are headed to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.

The last four years have been a long–often draining–journey for Williams and his team, as they’ve dealt with issues both on and off the court.

Despite not having won a championship of any kind entering the year, this group of Tar Heels—led by seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige–seems destined to win them all this season.

Marcus Paige (5), along with the rest of UNC's roster, can finally take the Final Four monkey of their backs. (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige (5), along with the rest of UNC’s roster, can finally take the Final Four monkey of their backs. (Todd Melet)

That, more than anything else, is what has made this such an emotional run thus far for Williams.

“I’ve never wanted anything in my life for someone else as much as I wanted to get this bunch to the Final Four,” Williams said after the game.

“I’m corny. I’m old fashioned. I’m anything you want to say, but fortunately for me I was very lucky to have had some big time players,” the coach added–referring to his seven previous Final Four trips.

In the first half on Sunday, Johnson was the only big-time player Williams needed against the Fighting Irish—as the rangy 6-foot-10 forward showed off a wide array of NBA-level post moves and jumpers, scoring 15 of his team-high 25 points in the period.

The second half, though, provided an example of how Johnson has helped age Williams significantly in recent years.

After stretching a five-point halftime lead to 11, the Tar Heels allowed Notre Dame to take the lead with a 12-0 run—highlighted by Johnson’s technical foul, which he got for tossing the ball in frustration after being called for another foul he didn’t like.

Williams benched Johnson for a few minutes, but put him back in to help his teammates score on 13 consecutive possessions following the technical—a run dominant enough to put Notre Dame away for good.

“It was really dumb on my part to put my team in a situation like that,” Johnson said, following an apology. “Being a leader on this team I don’t want to do that and have myself not be in the game and hurting [the team] at the same time by getting a tech.

Notre Dame big man Zach Auguste was limited to just five points thanks to foul trouble. (Todd Melet)

Notre Dame big man Zach Auguste was limited to just five points thanks to foul trouble. (Todd Melet)

“But my teammates did a good job of just playing,” he added. “They really stepped up in a time of need.”

Each of the Tar Heels’ starting five scored in double figures for the second straight outing, as they rolled to yet another double-digit tournament victory—the team’s fourth in as many games this year.

That surely has made it easy on Williams, their notoriously invested coach with two bad knees, since he often likes to jump and squat during pressure-packed moments.

Instead he was able to give his players even more.

Lovable sophomore Theo Pinson finally got the press conference seat he so badly desired after he made a number of big hustle plays down the stretch, while Johnson and Paige each were taken out of the game to large ovations.

“With 34 seconds left I started tearing up,” Paige said. “Everyone was getting real excited, I was looking over at the bench and guys were jumping around, and my family was right behind the bench.

“I was just so overwhelmed and excited that I’m glad Coach took me out,” he continued. “Because I probably would have done something stupid.”

Williams stands with his team as they pose with the Regional Championship trophy. (Todd Melet)

Williams stands with his team as they pose with the Regional Championship trophy. (Todd Melet)

It was fitting in the postgame celebrations that Williams cut open his hand just like he cut open his tongue when he bit it during the first half of Friday’s game against Indiana.

He literally bled for his team to be able to get to the Final Four and experience what college basketball nirvana feels like—which in a way, is something he’s been doing for four years now.

And with just two more wins, this could go down as the best coaching job the 65-year-old has ever done.

“It’s been a tough four years in Chapel Hill,” Paige said. “But to come out on top with this group—how much scrutiny we’ve gotten, even as a one-seed, how many people have doubted us to not make it out of the first weekend or not be tough enough to win the ACC. A lot of people didn’t even have us in the Final Four, a lot of the experts and stuff.”

“We love Coach and Coach loves us,” he added. “We don’t ever want it to stop. It’s been a special ride.”

Up Next: 

A Final Four date with a fellow ACC team, the  No. 10 seed Syracuse Orange, awaits the Tar Heels in Houston. That game will be played Saturday April 4 at 8:47 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Roy Williams’ eighth Final Four appearance puts him in fourth place on the all-time list behind only John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (12), and Dean Smith (11).
  • Brice Johnson’s 25 points and 12 rebounds gave him his 23rd double-double of the year–breaking Billy Cunningham’s school record for most in a single season.
  • Johnson also nearly matched the Fighting Irish’s rebounding total, as Notre Dame recorded just 15 the entire game thanks to UNC’s 61.5 percent shooting performance.
  • UNC is the only team remaining in the NCAA Tournament to have won all its games by double digits. The Tar Heels are also the last top seed left.



UNC-Indiana Gets Latest Available Start Time on Friday

The Tar Heels will take on Indiana with a tip time set for approximately 10 o’clock Friday night.

UNC is the No. 1 seed in the East Region and advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory over Providence on Saturday night.

No. 5 Indiana secured its ticket to the Sweet 16 with a victory over No. 4 Kentucky.

The other East Regional semifinal between No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Wisconsin will begin at 7:27 Friday night.

Both regional games will be televised on TBS from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The Tar Heels had the latest start time available on Saturday night, which led head coach Roy Williams to voice his objection at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“Jiminy Christmas, you know, what can you say? 9:45, 9:50 for a start time. Don’t we have a East, South, Midwest, West? Don’t we have some games out there that we can show on TV at that time? But, you know, it’s like spitting in the wind; it’s stupid because you can’t do anything about it, but I despise it. I gotta sit in the dadgum hotel room; I’ll wake up at six o’clock in the morning, don’t even get to go to work until frickin’ 9:30 at night.”

No word from Williams yet on UNC getting the last available tip time once again for Friday night, but you cam take a guess at what he thinks.

UNC Facing Tough Task in Providence in Round of 32

No. 1 seed UNC will enter Saturday night’s round of 32 matchup against Providence as near double-digit favorites to come away with a win, but the Tar Heel players and coach Roy Williams said on Friday they know how tough of a matchup the Friars will pose.

No. 9 Providence, coming off of a 70-69 first round win over No. 8 Southern California, is led by two of the premiere players in the Big East Conference this season, junior guard Kris Dunn and sophomore big man Ben Bentil. Dunn came into the season as the clear leader of the team after a tremendous sophomore campaign, and he followed up on that with a junior season where he scored 16 points per game while adding six assists.

UNC senior guard Marcus Paige said the length of the 6′ 4″ guard Dunn is going to present challenges.

“What really sticks out to me is his defense and his length,” Paige said on Friday. “He’s got really long arms, and he uses his quickness to get a lot of steals. So, he’s going to be a problem for us, but we’re going to throw different guys at him and try to contain him and keep him out of the lane.”

Williams compared Dunn to another big guard that Paige had to defend in Atlantic Coast Conference play, ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.

“Kris Dunn, that’s a challenge that there’s not many like him,” Williams said. “Brogdon is a different animal, too.”

Williams said while he knows Dunn will be a big challenge, Paige has the skill set to be up to the challenge.

“Marcus know the defensive principles. He has quick feet; he has toughness; he gets where he wants to be; he sees the man and sees the ball at the same time.”

The question for Providence was who would be the second option. That question was answered with the outstanding season from the forward Bentil. He made a huge jump from six points and five rebounds per game as a freshman to averaging 21 and eight as a sophomore.

Williams said that means UNC will need a big performance from all of the big men, not just the All-American Brice Johnson.

“I think Kennedy [Meeks] will play a lot better [than in the round of 64]. I really do,” William said. “Brice is playing at a pretty high level; I want him to continue doing that. But I don’t want everybody to get caught up in just those, it’s North Carolina against Providence.”

Williams added that he doesn’t put any stock in the fact that Providence went 6-6 over its last 12 games entering Saturday’s matchup.

“Those games don’t mean anything now,” Williams said. “We’re playing a very good basketball team with two marquee players and other guys that are pretty doggone good, and so we’ve got to try to guard them.

“But, I think our guys will play hard.”

UNC will tip off against Providence at 9:40 Saturday night, which Williams is none to happy about.

“Jiminy Christmas,  you know, what can you say? 9:45, 9:50 for a start time. Don’t we have a East, South, Midwest, West? Don’t we have some games out there that we can show on TV at that time? But, you know, it’s like spitting in the wind; it’s stupid because you can’t do anything about it, but I despise it. I gotta sit in the dadgum hotel room; I’ll wake up at six o’clock in the morning, don’t even get to go to work until frickin’ 9:30 at night.”

Despite the objections from Williams and print reporters across the country, UNC is in for a late night on Saturday. Now we’ll have to see if it’s worth the wait for the Tar Heels.

Stroman On Sports: Road To The Final Four

The NCAA tournament begins for UNC tonight, with the 16th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles looming as the Tar Heels’ first hurdle on the road to the Final Four. (Game time is 7:20 at PNC Arena in Raleigh; WCHL’s coverage begins at 5:30 with the UNC Health Care Countdown to Tipoff.)

How far will the Heels go this year? Who poses the greatest threat in the East region? Who else will make the Final Four? And who ever thought it was a good idea to let Tulsa in, anyway?

Deborah Stroman is a sports commentator and a professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School (and a Virginia alum who might be really conflicted come April 2). Earlier this week, she discussed the bracket with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.