Sue Favor was in attendance for the 2017 Women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four at American Airlines Arena. It marked her first time in Dallas.
“It was a great time,” said Favor, who covers women’s basketball at both the collegiate and professional level on her own website. “They put on a great show.”
The sequel is set to happen in 2023, when American Airlines Center once again hosts the women’s Final Four. Favor and over 53,000 Americans hope that doesn’t happen.
In light of SB 8 — the state’s “Heartbeat Act,” which bans abortions in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy — Favor started a petition on Change.org to relocate the 2023 Final Four out of Dallas and out of Texas. The petition, started on a whim by Favor, is over halfway to 100,000 signatures and climbing since it was started on Sept. 5.
“I’ve always been an extremely strong women’s rights proponent,” Favor said, “and we’ve seen so many advances in the last few years, especially for women and also women in sports.
“This law, it came out of the blue, and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. We were just making all this progress, and now we’re back in 1973?’ That doesn’t fit.”
The petition, according to Change.org, is mostly made up of people outside of Texas. Roughly 16% of signees are from Texas. The next states featuring the largest representation are California, New York and Florida.
There’s precedent for this type of action from the NCAA. In 2016, the NCAA moved seven championship events from North Carolina after the state passed HB 2, the controversial Bathroom Bill that required public school bathrooms and locker rooms only be used by people based on the gender they were assigned at birth.
A year later, the NCAA “reluctantly” voted to re-allow championship events in North Carolina after a compromised version of the bill replaced the original.
The Dallas Morning News asked the NCAA if it’s considering moving championship events out of Texas based on SB 8, like the petition hopes. The NCAA declined to comment.
The News also reached out to The Dallas Regional Chamber and Monica Paul, the Executive Director of the Dallas Sports Commission, but didn’t hear back.
Hosting the women’s Final Four two times in six years was looked at as a big win for Dallas and north Texas, which also hosted the 2014 men’s Final Four and the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game in 2015. Both were hosted at AT&T Stadium.
The 2017 women’s Final Four had a total attendance of 38,431, including a sellout crowd of 19,229 for South Carolina’s 67-55 National Championship win over Mississippi State.
“We want Dallas to be synonymous with women’s basketball,” Paul said in 2018 when it was announced Dallas would once again host the Final Four in 2023, “and we look forward to making 2023 even bigger and better.”
The 2023 women’s Final Four is one of roughly 30 championship events — including regionals and other postseason games and tournaments — the NCAA has scheduled in Texas through 2026, including the 2022 FCS National Championship at McKinney ISD Stadium and the 2023 women’s gymnastics national championships.
On Thursday, a federal judge in Austin denied a request from the U.S. Department of Justice to expedite a briefing in its challenge against SB 8. A proposed injunction against the Heartbeat Act also recently failed. The next hearing is set for Oct. 1.
That means the bill, for at least the near future, will live as is. And if it continues, Favor not only wants the NCAA to relocate the 2023 women’s Final Four out of Texas, but all championship events, just like it did in North Carolina in 2017. She also hopes her petition will open up discussion, similarly to what happened at last year’s women’s Final Four when Oregon’s Sedona Prince showed, in a viral TikTok video, the inequalities between what the men’s Final Four looked like compared to the women’s. After the video, the NCAA quickly made changes to try and remedy the situation and ease the backlash.
“The NCAA, like most entities and many bosses, try to act like they aren’t listening or they aren’t paying attention, but then all of a sudden some discussion will pop up,” Favor said. “I suspect that some discussion will take a place.
“So I would think that somewhere and somehow it will probably help throw a little gasoline on the flame.”
Staff writer BeLynn Hollers contributed to this report.