After the ACC boycotted North Carolina over House Bill 2, a group of Republican legislators have filed a bill that would withdraw UNC system schools from any athletic conference that boycotts the state in the future.
House Bill 728 was filed this week by five GOP House members. If it becomes law, public universities would be required to immediately begin the process of leaving their athletic conference if the organization boycotts the state. Revenue from existing media rights contracts would be used to pay withdrawal penalties; the withdrawals would take place when the current contracts for media rights expire.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mark Brody of Monroe, says he thinks North Carolina’s public universities would likely join another conference instead.
“I think there are a lot of conferences that would love to have North Carolina, including having a national championship basketball team join their conference,” Brody said Wednesday, referring to UNC-Chapel Hill. “None of the other conferences took this radical approach that the ACC did.”
After the legislature passed HB2 last year, the ACC in September pulled 10 neutral-site championships for the 2016-17 season – including a baseball tournament at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and several events in Cary.
After the law was replaced last month, the ACC announced that North Carolina will again be eligible for postseason events, ending the boycott. The NCAA made a similar announcement but voiced concerns about the new law.
“I don’t want to hurt athletics in North Carolina,” Brody said. “I just don’t support this action that they’ve taken to go beyond athletics and legislate to us.”
UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State are the only ACC members that would be affected. The bill wouldn’t apply to private universities like Duke and Wake Forest.
UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters issued a brief statement responding to the proposal. “Carolina is proud to be a member of the ACC and our affiliation has benefited both the University and the state,” she said. “We are pleased that earlier this month the ACC restored North Carolina’s ability to host tournaments and championships. We will monitor the legislation should it move forward to determine its potential impacts.”
The bill says the legislature has “the final authority” on UNC system schools’ membership status in athletic conferences. Brody is co-sponsoring the legislation with fellow Republican Reps. Bert Jones of Reidsville, Chris Millis of Pender County, Jeff Collins of Rocky Mount and Justin Burr of Albemarle.
Brody has also filed another bill that takes aim at the NCAA and ACC for their actions on House Bill 2. The “Athletic Associations Accountability Act” would require House and Senate leaders to complain to the IRS that the boycotts violate rules for nonprofit organizations.
That bill would also require any UNC system leader or staff member who serves on a board or committee for an intercollegiate athletic association, such as the ACC and NCAA, to disclose their votes – unless the vote involves a legal settlement or personnel matter. That would make public any votes cast by UNC chancellor or leader on a proposed boycott.
Brody said Wednesday that he doesn’t yet know if either bill has enough support in the House Republican caucus to move forward and survive a likely veto from Gov. Roy Cooper. He says that discussion will likely take place when the legislature returns next week.
“I’m hoping that one or more of these is going to be addressed at that point, and we’ll get an idea if either of these is going to move,” he said.
Democrats are opposing the latest proposal. On Twitter, Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte called it “yet another go-nowhere bill that makes us look spiteful and silly.”