The NCAA Executive Committee decided Friday to keep three Final Four basketball tournaments in Atlanta and a regional in South Carolina, rejecting calls by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to move them.
The SCLC had called for moving the NCAA events from Atlanta because the Georgia state flag includes the Confederate battle symbol.
The Black Coaches Association wanted the NCAA to move the first and second rounds of the 2002 men's basketball regionals from Greenville, S.C. because that state flies the Confederate battle flag atop its statehouse.
Kentucky president Charles Wethington, chairman of the executive committee, said that the association would monitor activities concerning the Confederate symbol in the two states.
"This is a matter of considerable concern to this committee and this organization," Wethington said. "Our paramount concern is for the welfare of student-athletes who are asked to travel to specific locales to participate in NCAA championships."
The NCAA also thanked the South Carolina legislature and governor for responding to its April resolution that the confederate flag be removed from its position atop the South Carolina statehouse.
"The NCAA wishes to express its continuing concern over any official symbol that conveys discrimination and racism. Our organization condemns all forms of discrimination and racism," the NCAA said in a statement issued after the executive board's closed-door meeting.
"We urge that there be continuing discussion and attention to these issues and we will continue to monitor circumstances that create inhospitable environments for our student-athletes."
SCLC president Martin Luther King III sent a letter Tuesday to NCAA president Cedric Dempsey, urging that the men's Final Four tournaments in 2002 and 2007 and the women's tournament in 2003 be shifted from Atlanta unless the Georgia flag is changed by March 31, 2001.
King set that date so the change would be completed by April 4, the anniversary of his father's 1968 assassination.
The Georgia Legislature won't be in session until January. Past legislative efforts to change the flag have failed, most recently in 1993.
King said the NCAA events should be moved because "the Confederate emblem represents the most reprehensible aspects of American history, not only for people of African ancestry but for people of every background who know and understand the destructive horrors created by slavery."
Gov. Roy Barnes, who has said the flag should not become an overriding topic in the next legislative session, said removing the Final Four from the state "would not be productive to the ongoing debate about Georgia's flag."
"This is a difficult issue about which discussions are ongoing," Barnes said. "Actions like this do nothing but inflame and excite emotion."
The action by the NCAA committee apprently did not satisfy Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the NAACP.
"The Confederate swastika is an abomination and incites hatred, and we think it ought not to be displayed at any public event," Bond said.
The NAACP isn't planning any immediate action in Georgia.
"It's on the horizon, but South Carolina is our focus right now," Bond said.
Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech men's basketball coach, said he was surprised by the committee's decision about South Carolina and predicted it would be reversed as the NCAA received further pressure. Georgia Tech is the official host for the Final Four events in Atlanta.
"It's not going to just be the coaches," Hewitt said. "People outside of sports are going to be putting pressure on them to move it. I don't think that's going to stick. I think eventually they will say, `Hey, either take the flag down or we're moving the tournament."'
Clint Bryant, an executive consultant to the Black Coaches Association, also expects discussion of the issue to continue.
"I'm not necessarily disappointed with where the NCAA has come out because I know it's going to be a continually working process," said Bryant, athletic director at Augusta (Ga.) State.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed