Can the NCAA save Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs in Texas?

This past April, the Texas Senate approved Senate Bill 17 that would restrict how the state’s public universities can promote equitable access to higher education and promote diversity among students, faculty and staff.

Senate Bill 17 requires universities to close their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices, ban mandatory diversity training, and ban hiring departments from asking for diversity statements. The bill would require any public universities’ boards of regents, who are appointed by the governor, to create policies to discipline or even fire employees who participate in any efforts to foster diversity. Universities would have to prove that they are in compliance with the new law before they can spend any state money and university leaders would be required to testify before lawmakers that they have not launched any DEI initiatives. The state auditor would conduct compliance audits at least once every four years at each institution.

Senators opposing the legislation argued that it would make people from underrepresented groups feel less welcome, turn back progress on making campuses more representative of the state’s diverse population, and halt efforts to correct past discrimination. It will also make it harder for public universities to receive research funding from federal agencies or private organizations that consider commitments to diversity when awarding grants.

“The consequences range from the unknown to the dire,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. “Senate Bill 17 will be a giant step backward in our quest for equal opportunity and equal worth for all. … I worry that stifling diversity, equity, and inclusion on our academic campuses … will breed the negative attitudes and behaviors typically attributed to ignoramuses while stifling the development of tolerant, enlightened communities.”

Senator Brandon Creighton and other supporters of the bill argue that diversity, equity, and inclusion offices force faculty and students to adopt certain political beliefs. He also believes that a ban on DEI programs will increase “true diversity” in Texas.

The law would also allow students and employees to sue schools if they are forced to participate in any DEI training. If universities violate the law, they could lose state funding for a year.

Creighton said DEI offices are ineffective and that they have failed to increase diversity among faculty members. In response, Senator José Menéndez stated, “If you want to fix this problem, let’s get surgical about it. Let’s not take a sledgehammer to something we can fix with a scalpel.”

Senator Royce West suggested that the Legislature add benchmark goals for DEI offices to meet and monitor their progress over a certain period of time. West criticized Creighton that he did not consult with lawmakers of color on how to solve this issue. “Why not bring us into the tent in order to get it done up front, not behind? That wasn’t done,” he said. “All of your colleagues that are ethnic minorities in this chamber are saying the same thing to you: It’s wrong. But you’re not listening.”

University of Texas at Austin student Alexia Palacios said that DEI offices ensure students from different backgrounds belong in these schools. “It’s these spaces that give us the community we need and the courage we need to speak up and to show, hey, we’re here,” she said. “This is what we need. This is really helping us.”[1]

Some senators have voiced concern that a ban on DEI initiatives will thereby force Texas universities to fail to comply with NCAA eligibility requirements. The NCAA constitution currently requires universities to provide training on the creation of diverse and inclusive environments, they require a full-time staff member to be in charge of athletics diversity and inclusion, and they require universities to complete a DEI review every five years or face a $500 fine. The bill would directly conflict with these NCAA requirements.[2]

 According to the NCAA’s “roles and responsibilities,” if the requirements are not satisfied within one year of the established deadline, the institution shall be placed in restricted membership status. Helen A. “Nellie” Drew, the director of the Center for the Advancement of Sport and professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Law, said a school entering “restricted status” could have far-reaching implications. It could mean facing the loss of eligibility. . .You’re given one to three years to comply with your issue and if you don’t comply, then they can kick you out.”

Senate Bill 17 could cause the NCAA to ban Texas athletic programs or ban hosting championship events in Texas. The NCAA prohibited North Carolina from hosting championship events when the state placed a transgender bathroom ban in place. Eventually, the state repealed the ban, and the NCAA lifted its sanctions.[3] The NCAA had also placed a 15 year ban on hosting championship events in South Carolina in protest of the state flying the Confederate flag. Once the state removed the flag from the state’s Capitol grounds, the NCAA lifted their restrictions.[4]

A DEI ban in Texas could also affect recruiting athletes. In Division I sports, Black athletes made up 55% of all men’s basketball teams and 48% of football teams in 2022, according to NCAA demographics.[5] “You have to think as a parent, would you want your son or daughter to compete in a state that’s trying to take the state back 200 or 300 years instead of progressively moving it toward the 21st century?”, stated Billy Hawkins, a University of Houston professor with a specialty in race in athletics. [6]

Currently, nineteen other states have filed similar bills to dissolve university diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. In Texas, Senate Bill 17 is now headed to the House of Representatives for further debate.

[1] McGee, Kate, “Texas Senate approves bill that would ban diversity programs in public universities,” 19 Apr. 2023,

[2] Bubel, Jennifer, “NCAA: Texas votes in favor of bill banning diversity,” 21 Apr. 2023,

[3] Jankowski, Philip, Rodrigues, Marcela, “Could Texas Senate’s bill to thwart DEI hurt sports recruiting at Texas, A&M, others?,” 21 Apr. 23,

[4] ESPN, “S. Carolina’s removal of Confederate flag leads to NCAA decision,” 9 Jul. 2015,


[6] Jankowski, Philip, Rodrigues, Marcela, “Could Texas Senate’s bill to thwart DEI hurt sports recruiting at Texas, A&M, others?,” 21 Apr. 23,

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