College sports championships can go on in Mississippi after flag change

Both SEC schools from Mississippi had condemned the flag.

The powers that be of college sports recently banned championships in Mississippi due to its controversial flag.

After pressure from the world of collegiate sports, the state of Mississippi is on track to change its flag, the only state flag left that still bears a Confederate emblem. Southeastern Conference (SEC) Commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement Sunday on Mississippi’s decision to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

“I am proud of our universities’ leadership, and the engagement of student-athletes and coaches in the efforts to change the State of Mississippi flag,” said Sankey in a tweet posted by the SEC Sunday evening. 

“The agreement to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the flag is a positive and appropriate action, and I applaud the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate for today’s action,” said Sankey. “I am also grateful for Governor Reeves’ openness to sign a bill to change the flag. As I have frequently said, our students deserve the opportunity to learn and compete in welcoming environments. Today’s action is welcomed in the spirit of this goal,” Sankey said.

Both of the SEC’s Mississippi schools, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, praised the decision, calling it the “right thing to do” and an “important and common cause to move away from a divisive flag. 

The Confederate emblem in the state’s flag was previously condemned by both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, the only Mississippi schools in the SEC. Mississippi did not host and was not scheduled to host any SEC championships during the 2019-20 season, which was shortened due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Sunday’s decision from Mississippi’s state legislature was a decisive one, passing 91-23 in the House and 37-14 in the Senate. 

The change of the flag will be a welcome move to MSU senior running back Kylin Hill, who had announced via Twitter that he would not represent the state of Mississippi unless the flag was changed. Hill, who led MSU in rushing in 2019 with 1,350 yards, had chosen not to enter the 2020 NFL Draft in order to return for his final season at MSU.

“Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore [100] & I meant that .. I’m tired,” Hill said on June 22, later following up  with, “Unlike [the] rest I was born in this state [100] and I know what the flag mean[s].”

“Big salute to EVERY university in this State that helped ....” Hill tweeted Sunday evening in support of the move.

Hill’s ultimatum was made in response to a tweet from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves saying “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly warned my fellow Mississippians that any attempt to change the current Mississippi flag by a few politicians in the Capitol will be met with much contempt.”

However, over the course of six days, Reeves had a change of heart. On Saturday, Reeves posted on Facebook that, were the bill to pass, he would agree to sign it into law.

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“The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it,” Reeves posted.

The decision came after Conference USA announced June 22, that due to the confederate emblem on Mississippi’s state flag, it had suspended conference championships in the state.

“The C-USA Board of Directors approved the prohibition of all conference championship events in the state of Mississippi until the confederate emblem is removed from the state flag,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod announced.

The University of Southern Mississippi was the only C-USA school affected by the prohibition. The conference was not scheduled to have any championships in Mississippi during the 2020-21 athletic season, but USM could have hosted in football, volleyball, or men’s golf if they had gained the #1 seed. 

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USM athletic director Jeremy McClain agreed with the need to update the state flag and issued a tweet linking to a joint statement from the leaders of Mississippi public universities. The statement explained why Mississippi schools stopped raising the state flag and called for a new flag that “unites Mississippians, rather than divides us.”

“It is time to make this long overdue change and allow us as Mississippians to pursue a brighter future TOGETHER!” McLain tweeted.

In choosing not to hold championships in Mississippi, C-USA guaranteed that Southern Mississippi would not host any championships at all, since the NCAA recently banned all its championships from Mississippi for the same reason. C-USA succeeds the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which recently withdrew its conference championships from the state “until the state flag is changed.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Dean_Barker