Skip to main content

Demonstrators gather at Monument Circle to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally in Indianapolis March 28, 2015.NATE CHUTE/Reuters

Southern California athletic director Pat Haden will not attend the College Football Playoff selection committee meeting in Indianapolis this week because of a new Indiana religious-freedom law that critics fear could permit discrimination against gay people.

Haden posted on Twitter at ADHadenUSC: "I am the proud father of a gay son. In his honour, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity."

The meeting coincides with the Final Four of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Haden is one of five current athletic directors on the 13-member selection committee that picks the four teams to participate in the College Football Playoff and compete for the national championship.

"I certainly understand and respect Pat's position," College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. "Everyone has the right to express their personal opinions and Pat, to his credit, has exercised his. As a father and also as a human being, I respect him for that."

As for the law that has sparked so much debate and criticism, Hancock said: "I think they need to fix this. But my focus is on sports. Other people more knowledgeable than I am are in a better position to address this matter. Our group's focus is on sports."

The law prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Indianapolis is among more than a dozen cities that have received a request from the College Football Playoff for a proposal to host future championship games.

Hancock said it is too early to say if Indiana's recently passed law would affect an Indianapolis title game bid. He said the city has not yet even decided whether it wants to be considered.

"I learned a long time ago don't comment on hypotheticals," Hancock said.