NCAA baseball regionals potential host sites include three states with sex-at-birth laws

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA announced 20 potential host sites for the early rounds of its postseason baseball tournament Friday, including three states that have passed laws requiring athletes to compete in interscholastic sports according to their sex at birth.

The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee unveiled the sites for 16 NCAA regionals and eight super regionals. Those include five schools in states that have passed the laws: Arkansas, Southern Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

The NCAA Board of Governors issued a statement April 12 saying it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports." The board said it would continue monitoring those situations.

"When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected," the board said.

Legislation requiring athletes to compete in interscholastic sports according to their sex at birth has been introduced in dozens of states this year, and governors have signed bills in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia laws also cover college sports teams.

On April 30, the NCAA announced the 20 potential host sites for the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Division 1 softball tournament. Three of the institutions were Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee. Florida State and Florida are also listed as possible host sites, and if Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a similar bill, those schools would also fall into this category.

Advocacy organizations have been pressuring the NCAA over its championships policy, urging the organization to withhold championships from states enacting legislation that targets the LGBTQ community. GLAAD and Athlete Ally wrote to the NCAA to express concern about the possible softball placements.

On Friday, the NCAA responded, indicating that its position has not changed.

"We will continue to follow our established championships selection process to ensure hosts for our Division I Softball Championship and all championships are able to foster an environment free from discrimination," wrote NCAA vice president of inclusion, education and community management Derrick Gragg. "Our championships policy requires that safeguards are in place to ensure the dignity of everyone involved in our events, and we work closely with host sites to address any concerns that may arise. It is our clear expectation that all NCAA student-athletes will be welcomed, treated with respect, and have nondiscriminatory participation wherever they compete."

Five years ago, the NCAA made good on its threat to pull basketball tournament games out of North Carolina in response to the "bathroom bill," which required transgender people to use restrooms according to their sex at birth and not their gender identity. The law was later repealed.

Jeff Altier, the committee chairman and the athletic director at Stetson, said last month that his committee had been given no directive to exclude any school from consideration for hosting a regional.

"Certainly, this has been a unique season, but the committee is very appreciative of all of the schools that submitted bids to host," he said Friday. "We are extremely excited to bring the Division I Baseball Championship back in 2021 and let the student-athletes, coaches and fans once again experience this terrific event."

The NCAA is using predetermined sites because of health and safety protocols surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and sites will be allowed up to 50% capacity based on recent guidance from the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group,.

The final 16 baseball sites will be announced on May 30, with the full field announced the following day.

Information from ESPN's Katie Barnes and The Associated Press was used in this report.