(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) Following disagreement on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors about the outside activities of chancellors at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University, some state lawmakers want to pass a law that requires university leaders to be transparent about how they vote on external boards that affect their institutions.
Specifically the Athletic Associations Accountability Act (NC House Bill 328), co-sponsored by four Republican members of the North Carolina House of Representatives, requires chancellors of any publicly funded state university to report to the President of the UNC system and to its Board of Governors the nature of their involvement with sports leagues such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference. If representatives of the state universities participate in decision-making as voting members of the associations, they are required to report and publicly disclose what issues they voted on, and how they voted, to their overseers in the University system.
The legislation also would require the leaders of the NC Senate and House to request that the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the NCAA and ACC violated their tax-exempt status, by engaging in political or legislative activities that fall outside their declared missions as athletic leagues.
The introduction of the legislation follows a secret vote last September by the ACC Council of Presidents – which included UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson – to move all the league’s sports championships that had been scheduled in North Carolina to other states. The move by the ACC presidents was designed to punish the Tar Heel State for its allegedly “discriminatory” House Bill 2 law, which overturned a Charlotte ordinance by requiring that users of public restrooms and dressing facilities do so according to the sex they are identified by on their birth certificates.
Both Folt and Woodson have declined to say how they voted in the September decision because they allegedly committed to a verbal agreement of confidentiality with the ACC’s other university leaders. The sponsors of House Bill 328 say keeping that information from the public is unacceptable.
“It should be transparent,” said Rep. Chris Millis, a co-sponsor of the bill, in an interview on the Raleigh-based Chad Adams Show. “[The bill requires] transparency and sunlight on our constituent institutions that are funded by taxpayer dollars, to not allow this future activity to go on in secret.”
Last week four members of the UNC Board of Governors said Chancellors Folt and Woodson – who were in New York for the ACC Council of Presidents’ biannual meeting – should vote, publicly, in the best interests of the state.
“They should first object to any sort of boycott or economic sanctions,” said Marty Kotis, a member of the Board of Governors. “Object to any private or secret closed door vote. And refuse to participate if the vote is going to be private.”
The possibility existed that the Council of Presidents could vote last week on whether or not to schedule championships and tournaments in North Carolina for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year, after ACC Commissioner John Swofford said such a decision would be made in the spring. But the session passed without any public announcement, so either a decision was made without public disclosure (yet), or the presidents will wait until their next scheduled meeting in September or hold a special meeting before that.
Swofford told the Associated Press in January the ACC is likely to move its football championship out of Charlotte again this year if House Bill 2 is not repealed or significantly altered.
“Our presidents made what they believe is a principled decision in that regard as to where our championships should be held and shouldn’t,” he said. “I don’t see that principle changing.”
The other component of House Bill 328 calls for the IRS to scrutinize whether the NCAA and ACC violated the conditions of their tax-exempt status, by exceeding their core missions as athletic leagues by advocating for changes in laws that have nothing to do with the conduct of their activities.
“I believe the NCAA and the ACC have stepped out of bounds…,” said NC Rep. Mark Brody, the chief author and sponsor of the legislation, in a Facebook post on Sunday. “To the best of my ability, [I] will never allow the General Assembly to relinquish its legislative authority over the internal affairs of the State or succumb to economic extortion to and from either the NCAA or the ACC.”
In the joint interview with Rep. Millis on the Chad Adams Show on Tuesday, Brody emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability by public officials.
“This is one of those core issues that the Republican conservatives have to take a stand on,” he said.