INDIANAPOLIS -- NCAA president Mark Emmert said his organization will wait to see what the Indiana legislature crafts as a fix to its controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act before reacting further but added that the controversy already has the NCAA looking more thoughtfully at where it will host championships in the future.
On Thursday, Indiana lawmakers, after a week of protests and denouncements from major businesses, including the Indianapolis-based NCAA, announced it would amend its religious objections law. The revisions made it through both legislative bodies in the state, and Gov. Mike Pence signed the RFRA clarification bill Thursday..
"[We] believe that it absolutely, positively needs to get fixed," Emmert said. "It's a bill that creates an environment within which college athletics would find it very difficult to operate."
Emmert, who condemned the law when it was passed, added that, as an employer more than a governing body, one that has 500 people on staff, the NCAA in his opinion would have to at least consider relocating its headquarters if the law was not amended.
"If I believed we couldn't conduct our affairs in a fashion that didn't prohibit discrimination against people for any number of reasons, then I would surely recommend that we move," he said.
Nineteen states have some sort of RFRA laws on the books, and 13 others -- including Indiana and Arkansas -- have passed or are considering them. Emmert stressed that the particulars of each law are different, making it impossible for the NCAA to issue a blanket statement.
But because of the conversations and controversies in Indiana, the NCAA will be looking more critically at where it hosts future championships, as soon as next month when the board of governors gathers.
"Two weeks ago, this would not have been on the board of governors' agenda at all to look at," said Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, the board of governors chairman. "Obviously because of what's happened here, and regardless of what occurs eventually over in the statehouse, this is going to be on our April agenda. So questions like, should we look at any particular social issues in states that hold championships of any type, not just the Final Four, but any of the multitude of championships, will now be something that we're going to take a close look at."
Consensus will be difficult, Emmert said, since the NCAA is made up of its membership, including many schools that have strong religious affiliations, but he believed change could occur if necessary.
Already the NCAA has refused to hold predetermined championships in South Carolina or Mississippi because both statehouses continue to fly a Confederate flag. South Carolina hosted a women's basketball NCAA tournament game this year, but only because the format was changed to allow top-seeded teams to host games.