The NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament will generate headlines across the sports world over the next few weeks as XX teams vie for the coveted national championship during March Madness.
For whom should LGBTQ fans cheer? That’s impossible to say. Fandom comes in all shapes and forms. Both teams from the 2021 final — the Baylor Bears (who won) and Gonzaga Bulldogs — are No. 1 seeds in their regions.
Yet if you’re looking for teams to cheer for, here are some of the connections the LGBTQ community — in particular LGBTQ people in sports — have with the teams competing for the title.
Not all of the schools have positive connections to the LGBTQ listed. Still, all of them have some relationship with the community.
1) Gonzaga Bulldogs
When Gonzaga in 2020 announced the opening of the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic, run by the university’s School of Law and Center for Civil and Human Rights, a local Catholic Bishop objected.
2) Duke Blue Devils
In 2009 a writer observed how Duke men’s basketball players seem to have been subjected to more homophobia than most, with Christian Laettner, Brian Davis, Bobby Hurley and J.J. Redick getting the brunt of it.
3) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Former women’s head basketball coach Marlene Stollings, who is LGBTQ, is suing the university claiming she faced discrimination. Players who left the team alleged she was abusive.
4) Arkansas Razorbacks
KC Cross is opening minds as a queer, nonbinary person working in the University of Arkansas athletics department.
5) UConn Huskies
The famed UConn women’s basketball team in 2013 worked with Nevin Caple to publicly roll out the red carpet for LGBTQ women to compete on the team.
6) Alabama Crimson Tide
Jack Lombardo came out on the Alabama men’s rowing team and has found acceptance. In football, head coach Nick Saban has said his team would treat a gay player “with dignity and respect.”
7) Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State has had multiple out gay cheerleaders for the Spartans, including Jeff Snyder and Jacob Michael.
8) Boise State Broncos
Jacob Grinwis was an out athlete on the Boise State track and field team, specializing in the 800- and 1,500-meter races. Nick Bogar was previously the president of the school’s club men’s volleyball team.
9) Memphis Tigers
The University of Memphis has a SafeZone program designed to educate people on campus about how they can create spaces where LGBTQ people feel welcome.
10) Davidson Wildcats
In 2020, undergrad Mandy Muse penned this op-ed about being gay at Davidson, an experience she described as “present” but “muted.”
11) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
In 2013, men’s head basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for some poor choices, including using a gay slur. On the flip side, swimmer and coach Sean Smith has been an out advocate for LGBTQ athletes.
11) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
When gay Notre Dame tennis player Matt Dooley came out in 2014, he broke a barrier for the Fighting Irish that other LGBTQ athletes have walked through.
12) New Mexico State Aggies
LGBT+ programs at New Mexico State says it is “committed to the wellness and success of all students, faculty, and staff in their expression of gender and sexuality at NMSU.”
13) Vermont Catamounts
In 2016, the Vermont women’s basketball team canceled a game at the University of North Carolina due to the state’s restrictions on who could access what bathrooms and services.
14) Montana State Bobcats
Former Montana State football player Brandon Davis came out publicly as gay in 2016.
15) Cal State-Fullerton Titans
The LGBT Queer Resource Center at Cal State Fullerton serves as a home-away-from-home for LGBTQ students
16) Georgia State Panthers
Jeffrey Rubel came out as trans to his teammates the last year of his stint on the school’s women’s cross-country and track & field teams, to mixed reception.
1) Arizona Wildcats
In 2015, the Arizona Wildcats posted a pro-equality banner in the athletics department with the signatures of 150 athletes.
2) Villanova Wildcats
Former Villanova basketball player Will Sheridan was one of the first former Division I college basketball players to come out as gay, ultimately inducted into the Delaware Basketball Hall of Fame.
3) Tennessee Volunteers
When the University of Tennessee defunded the LGBTQ Pride Center at the school, alumni stepped up to raise funds to keep the center open.
4) Illinois Illini
Stephanie Wheeler is the wildly successful and out head coach of the women’s wheelchair basketball team at Illinois. She has won three Paralympic gold medals: two as a player and one as a coach.
5) Houston Cougars
Last year Campus Pride rated the University of Houston the fourth most-inclusive campus for LGBTQ people in the southwest region with a score of 4.5 out of 5.
7) Ohio State Buckeyes
As the Ohio State University athletic director, Gene Smith has spoken about his support for diversity and inclusion, including the LGBTQ community.
8) Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall is one of only two men’s Division I basketball teams to have a publicly out gay player — Derrick Gordon. In 2016, Seton Hall went to the NCAA tournament with Gordon on the team.
9) TCU Horned Frogs
When he came out to his coaches and teammates, TCU swimmer Cooper Robinson finally found the love and support he needed.
10) Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
In 2014, the school instituted a policy allowing only straight Catholic couples to marry at the school’s chapel.
11) Michigan Wolverines
Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh is a supportive father of his gay son, with Jim Jr. talking about the love his father has shown him as a youth and since he came out.
12) University of Alabama-Birmingham
UAB professors who are LGBTQ recently talked publicly about the progress toward inclusion they’ve seen at the school.
13) UT-Chattanooga Mocs
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a gay and straight alliance called “Spectrum.”
14) Longwood Lancers
In 2014, Outsports had fun with the Longwood name being a clear fit for an Abercrombie & Fitch shirt. In 2017, the school hosted a conversation about the LGBTQ community at the school in Virginia.
15) Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens
In 2018, two lesbian volleyball coaches won a discrimination lawsuit against the University of Delaware. The women said they were fired for their age and sexual orientation.
16) Wright State Raiders
The LGBTQA Center at Wright State was founded in 2015.
16) Bryant Bulldogs
Bryant men’s basketball assistant coach Chris Burns came out publicly as gay in 2015.
1) Kansas Jayhawks
The Kansas athletics department includes the LGBTQ community in its outreach and resources on diversity and inclusion.
2) Auburn Tigers
In 2014 a Twitter handled named “Closeted Athlete” stirred debate. The athlete ultimately came out publicly: fencer and Auburn fraternity member Mason Briles.
3) Wisconsin Badgers
University of Wisconsin director of basketball operations for the men’s team Marc VandeWettering is the (currently) rare publicly out gay man in Division I men’s basketball.
5) Iowa Hawkeyes
Antonio Woodard was a successful runner for the Iowa men’s track and field team while also being out as bisexual, earning multiple All-American honors.
6) LSU Tigers
Women’s head basketball coach Kim Mulkey brought a Hall of Fame record and a history of homophobia to her coaching gig at LSU. Football coach Ed Orgeron was shown the door after he behaved like a homophobic jerk.
9) Creighton Bluejays
In 2021, Creighton students elected their first out gay president of the student body, sophomore Francisco Pastor-Rivera.
10) Miami Hurricanes
When former football player TJ Callan came out publicly in 2020, he talked about his struggles and triumphs. The Miami athletic department stayed silent, raising questions about their support for the LGBTQ community.
11) Iowa State Cyclones
National champion Tina Hillman was possibly the first publicly out NCAA athlete to come out publicly as pansexual. The Cyclones also had a former football player — Landon Streit — come out.
12) Richmond Spiders
Richmond women’s basketball player Jaide Hinds-Clarke started an on-campus group for black LGBTQ students like her.
13) South Dakota State Jacks
South Dakota State University has an LGBTQIA+ resource center providing campus and community resources to athletes, students, faculty and staff.
14) Colgate Raiders
Colgate University has an LGBTQ Studies Program, which the school says is among the first of its kind in the nation.
15) Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Ala., held the area’s first LGBTQ Pride Parade in 2017.
16) Texas Southern Tigers
Texas Southern University is an HBCU that hosts an LGBTQ Pride Center.
16) Texas A&M Corpus Cristi Islanders
The school has an LGBTQ organization on campus, Islander Spectrum of Sexuality and Gender.
2) Kentucky Wildcats
Former Kentucky punter Landon Foster came out publicly after leaving the Wildcats, one of a handful of former NCAA Division I football players to come out.
4) UCLA Bruins
UCLA has a long history of supporting LGBTQ people in sports, much of it aided by the presence of out gay softball coach Kirk Walker, who runs the Sports Equality Foundation.
5) St. Mary’s Gaels
Just last autumn, students at St. Mary’s staged a sit-in in support of LGBTQ rights.
6) Texas Longhorns
The University of Texas has a rich history of LGBTQ support, including marching in the Austin Pride Parade, hiring out associate athletic director Drew Martin and supporting out athletes like Kennedy Lohman and Jacob Cornish.
7) Murray State Racers
The LGBTQ student group at Murray State — originally called “Alliance” and now “Pride Center” — was founded in 1995.
8) UNC Tar heels
For decades the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had an out gay administrator in Dave Lohse. He retired in 2020 but is still involved with the school.
9) Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette Law School grad Aaron Hernandez has been a powerful voice for inclusion in the NCAA and beyond.
10) San Francisco Dons
For a short time, USF coach Jennifer Azzi was the only publicly out LGBTQ head women’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I.
11) Virginia Tech Hokies
Taylor Emery was an exceptional out basketball player for the Hokies women’s basketball team.
12) Wyoming Cowboys
The University of Wyoming men’s diving team has had multiple out athletes, including Scotia Mullen and Ryan Russi.
12) Indiana Hoosiers
As early as 2010, the Indiana athletic department embraced the LGBTQ community, that year appearing in the local Pride Parade.
13) Akron Zips
In 2014, Akron played host to the Gay Games, along with the city of Cleveland. The University of Akron hosted the track & field competition.
15) Saint Peter’s Peacocks
The Jesuit University has courses on gender and sexuality, and the school’s athletic department includes the LGBTQ community in its diversity and inclusion resources.
16) Norfolk State Spartans
Norfolk State men’s basketball SID Thomas Wehner is publicly out as gay.