Politics & Government

UW and WSU basketball coaches in Indiana, unaffected by state agency travel ban

The men’s basketball coaches from the University of Washington and Washington State University are in Indianapolis, despite a request from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that employees of state agencies – including the universities – refrain from traveling to Indiana on public business.

On Wednesday, the UW athletics department confirmed that head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar and his assistants are in Indianapolis for the National Association of Basketball Coaches convention, a five-day event held in conjunction with the Final Four college basketball championship. A spokeswoman for the WSU athletics department said Cougar men’s basketball coach Ernie Kent was also in Indianapolis for the event. (Neither team is playing in the Final Four.)

To protest Indiana’s new religious freedom law, Inslee this week banned state-funded travel to Indiana for employees of cabinet-level agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce. Inslee’s travel prohibition doesn’t extend to the state’s public colleges and universities, but the governor’s office has asked them to participate in the ban, said Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.

UW athletics spokesman Carter Henderson said Romar’s travel plans to Indianapolis predated the governor’s travel ban as well as Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Critics say the new Indiana law will allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples and other individuals on religious grounds.

“At the time we received clarification on Gov. Inslee’s announcement, Coach Romar was actually already in Indianapolis fulfilling commitments which had been scheduled long before this legislation was introduced,” Henderson wrote in an email. “He and his assistants are currently in Indianapolis for the annual coaches’ convention and other business.”

Henderson also wrote “that the travel ban does not extend to higher ed.”

Still, Smith said that some university officials, including those at Western Washington University, had agreed to join in the ban.

“We appreciate Western's shared commitment to equality,” Smith wrote in an email.

UW spokesman Norm Arkans said Wednesday that university administrators had not asked Romar to stay behind or cancel his Indiana trip.

On the other side of the country, UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie said he and his staff would not travel to the coaches’ convention and the Final Four in Indianapolis, after Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy issued an order banning state-funded travel to Indiana earlier this week.