Notre Dame Prez Tells NCAA It Can’t Decide Morals for Schools

A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathroom on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina

The president of the University of Notre Dame warns the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that it can’t mandate what morals he and his college will follow just because it controls college sports.

The religious school’s president, John I. Jenkins, penned an editorial for The Wall Street Journal wherein he said the NCAA has overstepped its authority with its attempt to impose moral ideals on college sports.

In particular, the priest is concerned over the NCAA’s action of moving 2016-17 national championship games away from North Carolina because of the state’s HB2 bathroom law. Jenkins essentially asserted that the sports organization has no right to involve itself in legislation passed by state governments. He also hinted that the NCAA has gotten arrogant because of the huge amount of money college sports generates.

“The role of such associations,” Jenkins said of the NCAA, “is to foster athletic competition that is fair and serves the well-being of student-athletes. There is plenty of work for them to do in that sphere without assuming the role of spokesperson for their members on contentious political and social issues.”

Jenkins allowed that “respect” for the LGBT community is important, but so are the positions of those who feel threatened by men pretending to be women in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms.

Heightened respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens is a signal moral achievement of our time, and harboring reservations about any retrenchment is natural. Yet some citizens may wonder about the implications of substituting gender identity for biological sex in public restrooms. While attending to the rights and sensibilities of transgender persons, it’s important to also take into account the feelings of those who might be uncomfortable undressing in front of a member of the opposite biological sex.

Jenkins closed with a sentiment that perfectly encapsulates the failure of many institutions of higher learning.

At a time when tweets, slogans and sound bites seem to define the substance of our political discourse; when respect for truth seems a casualty of the campaign; and when ideological polarization often hamstrings responsible governing, the nation needs universities to raise the intellectual tone of Americans’ discussions more than ever. We must strive to do a better job of providing this service. We will certainly fail if we delegate the work to athletic associations.

The conflict between the NCAA and the state of North Carolina arose when the state legislature passed HB2 into law to protect the safety of women and children from predators who may pretend to be women in order to gain access to the women’s facilities in public places.

The bill, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said, was heavily opposed by the deep pockets of gay advocacy organizations from outside the state.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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