ACC moving neutral-site championship games out of North Carolina due to HB2

ByAndrea Adelson ESPN logo
Thursday, September 15, 2016

The ACC announced Wednesday that it is moving all neutral-site conference championship games out of North Carolina as a result of the state's controversial House Bill 2 law that limits the legal protection of the LGBT community.

The conference council of presidents issued a statement saying its decision "reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination."

"Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC championships at campus sites," the statement said. "We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral-site championships for the 2016-17 academic year."

This means the ACC football championship game scheduled for Dec. 3 will no longer be played in Charlotte. Conference commissioner John Swofford said in a statement that a new location will be announced at a later date.

Sources told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that Orlando, Florida, is the prohibitive favorite to host the game. The ACC will meet with officials there Thursday about the possibility of moving it to Camping World Stadium.

The biggest hurdle is that Florida's high school state football championships (Class 4A-1A) are scheduled for Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 at Camping World Stadium. The Florida High School Athletic Association has not been notified that there could be changes to the schedule, a spokeswoman told ESPN on Wednesday.

"To move the game, there would have to be a written agreement by both parties," Jamie Rohrer of the FHSAA told ESPN.

Nashville, Tennessee, has also been contacted by the ACC about the city's interest in hosting the football title game, a source told McMurphy.

As far as possibly holding the ACC title game on campus -- like other conferences have done -- a source said that was "very unlikely."

The NFL's Carolina Panthers said they were disappointed by the ACC's decision to move the conference title game away from Bank of America Stadium, but they "remain steadfast in providing an inclusive environment."

Other ACC sports affected by the North Carolina neutral-site ban are baseball, women's basketball, women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and men's and women's golf.

The Central Florida Sports Commission confirmed Wednesday it is interested in hosting all the neutral-site events that would need to be relocated.

Miami athletic director Blake James told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that he wants to evaluate whether Miami or the South Florida area could serve as a host.

"We will evaluate what opportunities are out there and see what makes sense for us to try to be part of the conversation going forward,'' James told the Herald. "If there are events we can bring to South Florida, I think it would be great for our institution, our students and our fans."

The ACC's move comes on the heels of the NCAA announcing Monday that it wouldmove seven championship events-- including the first- and second-round games of the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- out of North Carolina.

"The ACC council of presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount," Swofford said in a statement. "Today's decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected.

"Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships."

In February, the NBA decided to move its All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.

The ACC and SEC must also decide what to do with the Belk Bowl, which is scheduled for Dec. 29 in Charlotte. Teams from both conferences participate in the ESPN-televised game.

"The SEC has a contractual relationship with the Belk Bowl," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "The current circumstances merit further dialogue with our Conference membership."

An ACC spokesperson said the league's presidents have not discussed the Belk Bowl.

"At this point, there isn't a change [in the ACC playing] in the Belk Bowl," a spokesperson said.

The NCAA could decertify the Belk Bowl, meaning any student-athletes that participated in the game would be ruled ineligible. However, an industry source told McMurphy it's unlikely to "because the NCAA doesn't want to make the Power 5 leagues mad."

The NCAA declined comment about the Belk Bowl and the NCAA's stance on having a bowl game in North Carolina.