On Friday, a group of NCAA champions descended on the White House to meet with President Trump, handshakes were exchanged and photographs were taken. A total of 18 teams visited 1600 Penn — the only teams to turn down the commander-in-chief’s invite were the basketball champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels men and the South Carolina Gamecocks women.
Trump was in his element among the young stars, assuming a wrestling stance with the Penn State wrestling team and tossing a volleyball with the Ohio State women’s volleyball team. He even declared to the West Virginia rifle team “we saved the second amendment!” At one point, he spotted a Maryland lacrosse player wearing a “Trump ’16” tie and pulled the athlete to the front of the crowd, then boasted to the gathered photographers “look at that folks.”
Almost as impressive as the athletes on hand was the performance of White House staff who quickly funneled the teams through pictures with President Trump and into the Oval Office for brief tours. Later in the day, Trump was joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The following teams were in attendance:
- Penn State men’s wrestling team
- Maryland men’s lacrosse team
- McKendree (Ill.) women’s bowling team
- Maryland women’s lacrosse team
- Washington women’s rowing team
- Ohio State men’s volleyball team
- Oklahoma men’s golf team
- Texas A&M women’s equestrian team
- Penn State women’s rugby team
- Texas A&M men’s indoor track and field team
- Oklahoma women’s softball team
- Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team
- West Virginia rifle team
- Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team
- Virginia men’s tennis team
- Florida men’s baseball team
- Arizona State women’s triathlon teams
- Utah skiing team
Of course, not all teams were able to send their full squads because, while they may be national champions, many of these stars are still college students with classes and practices. For example, the Penn State wrestling team was only able to send four of their members to Washington DC.
Absent from the ceremonies were the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team and the North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball team. The Gamecocks say that they waited months for an invitation that only arrived in early November. When their invite came, they team turned it down, citing a scheduling conflict. When asked about the fact that they had not received an invitation earlier this year, coach Dawn Staley said “I’m not going to discuss the White House anymore. As far as I’m concerned, I’m over the White House thing. The only invitation I would like is to get into the NCAA tournament in March,” The Washington Post reports.
The Tar Heels also cited a scheduling conflict when they turned down their invitation; however, even if they had agreed to meet Trump, they wouldn’t have been in the mass of athletes on Friday. Major championship teams like men’s basketball visit the White House on their own. In June, the championship Clemson football team visited Trump as a team and were the only athletes on the grounds that day.
Trump, who considers himself to be an excellent athlete, once bragging “I was always the best athlete…I was the best baseball player in New York when I was young,” has waded into controversies with a number of professional stars. He withdrew his invitation to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors after their star player said he didn’t want to go and criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, calling them “sons of bitches.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.