Originally created 01/19/00

Conference feeling pressure over Confederate flag



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Furman coach Larry Davis thinks the dispute about the Confederate flag above South Carolina's Statehouse will eventually affect the Southern Conference tournament at the Bi-Lo Center.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Black Coaches Association already want the NCAA's South Regional in 2002 moved from the arena.

That follows a tourism boycott of the state by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that began Jan. 1.

Davis and other league coaches worry the next thing could be pressure to move the Southern Conference men's and women's tournaments from South Carolina. They are scheduled the next two years in Greenville and the following two years in Charleston.

"I don't think that's far off," Davis said Tuesday. League commissioner Alfred White agreed, saying, "There will probably be a trickle-down effect."

Davis, who strongly opposes the flag, said the NAACP had every right to demand major events leave the state.

"Some say this is blackmail and holding us up, but this is America and we have a right to protest," Davis said. "It's a very effective protest."

With the tournament just six weeks away, a contract has been signed with the Bi-Lo Center for the tournament, and preparations are well under way, said White and Southern Conference spokesman Steve Shutt.

"If we had to find a building to hold this in a different state, it would be a great challenge," Shutt said.

The men's tournament will take place entirely at the 15,000-seat Bi-Lo. The women's tournament will play its first two rounds at Furman's Timmons Arena and move to the Bi-Lo for the semifinals and finals. The tournament is also to be at the Bi-Lo in 2001 and then at the North Charleston Coliseum for 2002-03.

Wofford coach Richard Johnson said he didn't know what would happen if the tournament became politicized.

"What do you do? If it's something you want to do, how do you handle it? I don't think you can break a contract," he said.

Jim Haney, executive director of the NABC, said his group thought it best to move slowly with just the call to move the NCAA regional.

"What we did was a serious step," he said. "The issue is broader than the just the NCAA tournament in 2002, (but) I think it's reasonable to sit back and see what happens politically within the state. Then we can consider other options."

With growing political pressure to move the flag, Haney expects things to be settled before the 2002 NCAA tournament.