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NCAA Finds New Home Outside Of NC

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  Duke and North Carolina started their push for the Final Four this weekend on ‘foreign soil.’  Because of the NCAA boycott of North Carolina due to House Bill Two, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels found themselves playing in Greenville, South Carolina – rather than the far more familiar Greensboro where the games were initially scheduled.  

It was a full-house at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville all weekend for the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball championships.  Tar Heel fan Todd Walker says the change in venues – North Carolina has hosted March Madness games 30 out of the last 38 years – is a shame.

“I personally think it’s one of those things where Carolina needs to get over it and get on the right side of history, really. It’s not politics overreaching. It’s the way of the country. It’s like gay rights, same thing. We’ve had that around forever, like prostitution, we need to get on the right side of history. You can’t stop it.”

However, for locals like Cory Turner—a Duke fan— having Greenville host the tournament in their town is a welcome change, especially since they don’t have to make the 200 mile drive northeast.

“We definitely benefitted in this case. It’s great, says the other. We get to go watch them. It’s an honor to have them here.”

For some fans, the location is of little consequence.

“I’m a Tar Heel fan, born and bred. I’ll follow them anywhere, I love to say them play. But truthfully, Carolina is always welcome in Greenville, because I live in Greenville, South Carolina! [laughs] [her husband] There’s North Carolina fans IN South Carolina!  We’re happy they’re here! We don’t have to travel this time! But yes, I think the NCAA has really overstepped their bounds.”

The local economy has certainly benefitted from the games. Around the corner, a popular billiards hall and sports bar known as Local Cue saw a modest boost in sales, according to manager Mike Sherill.

“Oh yeah, we’re seeing a lot of new faces. The difference is now, you’re getting more people in from out of town. Before we had people come in to watch the games, but now with the influx of people coming in to watch the games, needing some place to watch the games, somewhere to eat.. Yeah, we have a lot of people in from out of town tonight.”

The bar lies between seven major hotels, along U.S. Highway 385. Sherill says he’s seen fans from all over the U.S., mostly from North Carolina – even though the University of South Carolina Gamecocks were also sent to Greenville to play.

“I feel it’s a great way for Greenville to showcase it’s downtown, what we have to offer, hospitality industry. We have enough people here, enough hotels, I think everyone who’s come in has had a positive response and has nothing but good things to say about Greenville. Definitely, it’s unexpected. They didn’t expect Greenville to be so nice.”

The Palmetto State itself was recently lifted from a similar NCAA ban. For more than a decade, South Carolina was ineligible to host such games due the Confederate flag that flew above its statehouse. Following the deadly shooting of nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston, the flag was removed.   Meanwhile back north, if House Bill Two is not repealed soon, the NCAA has said North Carolina will be banned from hosting tournament games until 2022 at the earliest.

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