The heads of both the SEC and NCAA issued a statement of support after the Mississippi legislature voted to change the state’s flag.
The Mississippi flag has long included the Confederate flag. It will no longer do so after the state’s legislature voted to change the flag on Sunday. Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to sign the bill into law.
The change to the flag comes days after leaders at both Ole Miss and Mississippi State lobbied at the capitol for changes to the flag. New Mississippi State coach Mike Leach — a man recently hired by the school and previously condemned for a tweet with a meme that contained a noose — said the state’s flag wasn’t serving its purpose because it didn’t bring all of its residents together.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement commending the decision:
“I am proud of our universities’ leadership and the engagement of student-athletes and coaches in the efforts to change the State of Mississippi flag,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action, and I applaud the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate for today’s action. I am also grateful for Governor Reeves’ openness to sign a bill to change the flag. As I have frequently said, our students deserve the opportunity to learn and compete in welcoming environments. Today’s action is welcomed in the spirit of this goal.”
Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State chimed in after the vote as well.
NCAA says opportunity for championships in Mississippi is ‘open’
Mississippi has been the only state ineligible for NCAA championship sites because of the state’s flag. The NCAA recently expanded its policy to prohibit schools like Ole Miss and Mississippi State from hosting regional baseball and softball tournaments as well as events like the first two rounds of the women’s basketball tournament.
Later Sunday night, NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement saying Mississippi’s decision will “open the opportunity to hold NCAA championships.”
The expansion of rules was a major sign that the NCAA was serious about putting pressure on the state. Both Mississippi schools are frequent regional hosts in baseball and the Mississippi State women’s basketball team has established itself as one of the best in the country.
The change also comes less than 10 days after Sankey called for the state’s flag to be changed. In a statement, the SEC had threatened to no longer hold conference championship events in the state if the flag remained.
Conference USA issued a similar sentiment too. And that would have resulted in serious implications for Southern Mississippi’s football team. The C-USA football conference title game is awarded to the best team in the conference, meaning Southern Mississippi could be ineligible for homefield advantage.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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