It wasn’t always this way.
In 2002, Columbia hosted a World Series Baseball Regional, a Super Regional and a women’s Basketball Regional. Around the same time, Columbia was also chosen to host a number of SEC championship events and several men’s soccer tournaments.
With the University of South Carolina set to open a new $64 million, 18,000-seat basketball arena later that year, it seemed Columbia was a good bet to make the rotation for several of the NCAA’s championship events.
But that never came to pass. For reasons that – to me – defy logical explanation:
You might have forgotten that Columbia can never be the site for a pre-determined NCAA tournament. Never, at least, until the Confederate flag is removed from the State House grounds.
So, it will not happen in my lifetime. No doubt, it will take at least another 50 years or so for the state of South Carolina to move into the 21st century.
Yes, the NCAA issued a two-year ban on awarding predetermined postseason events to South Carolina in 2001 and extended the moratorium indefinitely in 2004. Once the flag comes down, the NCAA comes back to town. It’s really that simple.
But apparently still committed to fighting a war that ended nearly 150 years ago, South Carolina’s political leaders have refused to back down in the face of the NCAA’s – and the NAACP’s – economic boycott. Is this mere stubborness or principled defiance in support of Southern ideals that somehow eludes me? (Of course, the old joke holds that the Civil War ain’t over down here – it’s just halftime.)
Either way, the ban goes on.
So while cities like Greensboro and Dayton reap tremendous economic benefits from hosting the Dance, Columbia’s jewel of an arena sits dark and empty, local businesses miss their chance to cater to hordes of basketball fans and thousands of hotel rooms go unused.
Ron Morris of The State (Columbia, S.C.) laments:
For an NCAA basketball event, the host city essentially opens its front door and asks visitors to drop cash at area hotels and restaurants. The NCAA covers all expenses.
… Beyond the obvious financial gains, the city of Columbia would benefit immensely from the national exposure garnered by hosting a tournament. The city can’t possibly purchase the kind of publicity it would get from having its name printed on every NCAA tournament bracket across the country.
… All the money Columbia has doled out for music festivals and new slogans would come back in spades with just one weekend of NCAA tournament basketball. Not a person outside Columbia — OK, and most people within the city limits — knows that “Famously Hot” is the city’s new slogan.
Clearly, South Carolina is lacking in progressive leadership. And maybe that’s the way they prefer it in the Palmetto State.