NEWBERRY — On the day Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill to remove the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds, the wheels started turning at Newberry College in preparation for what could be a huge window of opportunity for the college and the community.
Since 2001, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has prohibited states like South Carolina from being selected as pre-determined championship sites because the Confederate Flag continued to fly or have a prominent presence on the Statehouse grounds.
That changed last Thursday when Haley signed the bill calling for its removal, rendering the NCAA’s 2001 Confederate Battle Flag Policy invalid.
For Matthew Finley, director of athletics at Newberry College, and Clarissa Childs, head women’s golf coach, the opportunity for economic development in the Palmetto State — not to mention recruiting opportunities — is huge, considering the large representation of NCAA Division I and Division II institutions in South Carolina.
“As an NCAA Division II institution, we now have the opportunity to work with our local and regional community to collaborate and place bids on pre-determined championship events such as Super Regionals for golf, cross country and wrestling, in addition to finals sites for many of our sponsored sports,” Finley said.
Childs said she is excited for the opportunity this brings. In 1999, while at the University of South Carolina, she saw one of the last — if not the last — regional games played in South Carolina.
“These games bring more national recognition for recruitment and is an advantage for players. This will also give the players more confidence because they would be able to play on their own course,” Childs said.
Childs said she and Finley began the bidding process for Regionals in 2017 and Nationals in 2018 for women’s golf.
“The bidding process will involve the structure of championship facility requirements, marketing, lodging specifications, NCAA and host responsibilities, schedule of events and volunteer needs,” Finley said. “With Newberry College’s success in sports such as golf and wrestling on the national level in past years, we would love to see an opportunity for our student athletes to compete for a championship in our local community in the future.”
Most bids are selected by the NCAA two to four years in advance of the championship, so the bidding process starts many years out. The bidding process also requires lots of planning and collaboration among many different organizations in the community.
When Newberry College is selected to play host as a championship site, it could mean big things for the community. According to Finley, a championship game means thousands of people coming into the community.
“The economic impact of the thousands of visitors on our community over the course of multiple day events would be a benefit for all our local businesses, restaurants, hotels, gas stations and stores,” Finley said. “It is a win-win for the entire community and state if we were to be selected for a bid on a future NCAA championship.”
A championship game could also mean good news for recruitment. Both the NCAA and Newberry College would market the event, which would mean heightened exposure for the college and the community.
“With the facility and amenity requirements for most championships in Division II final sites and Division I events most likely requiring the bids to go to larger cities (like Greenville and Columbia), Newberry is in a unique position with an opportunity to bid on NCAA Division II Super Regionals with the hopes of landing some of the events in the city/county of Newberry, thus potentially helping the economy of our immediate locale,” Finley said.
The flag’s removal made South Carolina immediately eligible for bidding.
“With its latest action, which we strongly support, South Carolina is immediately eligible to participate in the bidding processes for future championships,” said Mark Lewis, executive vice president championships and alliances. “We currently anticipate that the general process for awarding future pre-determined sites will commence in January 2016.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.