College baseball teams from Minnesota won’t have a chance to advance to two national tournaments.
The Minnesota State College and Universities system (MnSCU) announced that all sports travel is nonessential, meaning any future trips to North Carolina would be prohibited. The NCAA Division II national baseball tournament and NJCAA Division III World Series are scheduled to be played in North Carolina this spring.
The announcement follows Gov. Mark Dayton’s statement last month that instructed “employees in all state agencies to refrain from traveling to North Carolina for conferences or other official state business, until the North Carolina governor and State Legislature repeal the discriminatory law they enacted [on March 23].”
The law bans transgender people from using locker rooms and bathrooms designated for the gender with which they identify.
The Governor’s order did not apply to MnSCU, but its leadership later implemented its own travel ban for MnSCU employees.
The Division II national championships have been played in Cary, N.C., since 2009 and Minnesota State-Mankato has been in that field four times -- most recently in 2014. The Mavericks were national runners-up in 2013. St. Cloud State was one game away from qualifying last year.
Initially, it was unclear if this included travel associated with college athletics and, after a month of consideration, the MnSCU determined it would.
“On May 2, the Minnesota State College and Universities presidents met and expressed their support for Governor Dayton,” the statement released by communications director Doug Anderson said. “The presidents have concluded that athletics-related travel is nonessential for purposes of this directive. While we understand that some players may be disappointed, no sports team from any of our colleges or universities will participate in tournaments in North Carolina this spring.”
Minnesota Duluth (33-9) and St. Cloud State (34-6) are nationally ranked NCAA Division II programs that had their sights on reaching the national tournament.
MnSCU is the statewide governing agency for all of the state's universities and two-year colleges outside of the University of Minnesota system.
In an email to the Star Tribune, athletic director Josh Berlo said: “UMD athletics and the University of Minnesota strongly oppose the recent discriminatory legislation in North Carolina. We deeply value diversity and inclusivity on our campuses and in our communities. Should UMD baseball advance to the NCAA tournament and the legislation still be in place, UMD athletics would prudently assess the situation at that time.”
St. Cloud State University president Earl H. Potter III told the St. Cloud Times that he was surprised by the decision: "The initial review by the general counsel of MnSCU was that student activities could proceed. One student activity took place in April shortly after the governor's decision. That suggested to us that other student events would proceed."
Century College (26-9) in White Bear Lake is ranked in the top 10 nationally and already has qualified for its NJCAA Division III regional tournament. St. Cloud Tech (20-5) also is in the top 10.
Dwight Kotila, the Century College baseball coach, was dreading delivering the news to his players.
Kotila received news of the decision midway through a doubleheader Tuesday in Iowa and told his players before the bus ride home.
“The only thing we can do is give our arguments and sentiment as far as why the travel should be allowed and hopefully the state office and administrators that are in charge of the decision would listen and decide there is a really nothing positive that can come from banning this travel,” Kotila said.
“Obviously, everyone supports the opposition to the law that has passed in North Carolina, but other than that it’s not really fair to our student athletes that have worked so hard and put in so much effort. These tournaments are planned years in advance, so for them to come in at the last minute and say ‘you can’t go’ just doesn’t make a lot of sense to a lot of us.”