Illiniwek appeal denied
From: The Daily Illini
By Courtney Linehan
Chief Illiniwek is hostile and abusive despite the University's "good
intentions and best efforts," the NCAA announced Friday as it denied
Illinois' appeal of its inclusion in a policy banning American Indian
imagery from postseason contests.
Four weeks after receiving Illinois' appeal, the NCAA staff review
committee changed its tune of the past few months, stating the names
"Illini" and "Fighting Illini" are not American Indian-based and
therefore do not create a "hostile and abusive" environment on campus.
Chief Illiniwek, the association said, is another case.
"By continuing to use Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery,
institutions assume responsibility over an environment which they
cannot fully control," Bernard Franklin, NCAA senior vice-president
for governance and membership, said in a prepared statement released
Friday. "Fans, opponents and others can and will exhibit behaviors
that indeed are hostile and abusive to Native Americans."
The NCAA refused to comment beyond Franklin's one-page statement. A
request Friday to speak to media relations representatives was denied
and e-mails earlier in the week were not returned.
University spokesman Tom Hardy said the University sees the NCAA
response as a victory on the Illini and Fighting Illini names, but a
setback in regard to Chief Illiniwek and the Board of Trustees' work
toward its own decision.
"The case was basically that the Board has its self-autonomous
institutional process and should be able to carry that out without
interference from the NCAA," Hardy said.
Franklin's statement did not mention anything about the University's
argument that the NCAA policy interfered with the Board of Trustees'
own guiding principles regarding Illiniwek. In 2004 the Board adopted
a "consensus resolution" policy, saying it hoped to bring Illiniwek
supporters and opponents together to find the best solution for the
campus and community. The Board approved a set of guidelines for
coming to this resolution at its July meeting, a few weeks prior to
the NCAA policy's release.
"Obviously, the University and the Board of Trustees felt
institutional autonomy and self-determination are a major reason for
the institution to be exempt from the list," Hardy said. "It is
apparent by its response that the NCAA wasn't persuaded by that
argument yet, as they had minimal response to that in their decision
Board Chairman Lawrence Eppley said in a press release that he is
grateful the NCAA agreed with the University that "Illini" is a term
derived from the name of the state and is not a reference to the
people who once lived here.
"I am pleased the NCAA recognized what we've maintained all along,"
Eppley said. "'Illini' is taken from the name of our patron state and
'Fighting Illini' refers to our University's winning spirit and drive
Hardy said the official response sent to the University addressed the
1995 U.S. Office of Civil Rights finding that Chief Illiniwek did not
create a hostile environment on campus. He said the NCAA cited
anecdotal evidence suggesting there have been instances of hostility
since then, but he added that the University recently began a
faculty-led inquest into whether Chief Illiniwek affects students'
"It's a bit of a head scratcher when you consider that the Office of
Civil Rights is an entire agency to ensure the enforcement of the
Civil Rights Act," Hardy said. "They came in, spent time on campus,
talked to a lot of people and watched Chief Illiniwek perform."
Franklin's statement said the NCAA's decision was based on the staff
review committee's own research, discussions with relevant American
Indian groups and information provided by the University.
While the NCAA release did not provide further detail, John Froman,
chief of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, said the NCAA did
contact him. The Peoria are the descendents of members of the
Froman said he told the NCAA that the term "Illini" was not a part of
the Peoria language, and that his tribe was never called the Illini.
He said the NCAA asked if he'd had recent contact with the University
regarding the Chief, and what the tribe's official position regarding
Chief Illiniwek was.
"I told them the Chief was not representative of our tribe and
culture, mainly because the costume is Sioux," Froman said.
Hardy said the Board has not decided how to handle the NCAA's denial
of the Chief Illiniwek portion of the appeal. The next appeal option
is for the University to go directly to the NCAA executive committee.
The NCAA continuously reiterates that its goal is not to force any
school to alter its mascot, logo, or nickname. The requirement, the
association says, is that member institutions comply with the NCAA's
non-discrimination policy and "promote an atmosphere of respect for
and sensitivity to the dignity of every person."
"At an ever-increasing rate of occurrence and volume, Native
Americans have expressed their objections to the use of names, terms,
imagery and mascots associated with athletic teams," Franklin's
No immediate change is planned at Illinois; Chief Illiniwek appeared
as scheduled at volleyball and women's basketball games this weekend.
He will perform when men's basketball opens its regular season against
South Dakota State on Friday and when football closes its season
against Northwestern on Saturday.
While the Board is not scheduled to meet again until January, it
could possibly add a meeting to discuss the NCAA decision.
"The Board hasn't determined when it's going to make a decision about
what the next approach is going to be," Hardy said.
The NCAA policy, which goes into effect Feb. 1, 2006, prohibits the
display of American Indian mascots, logos and nicknames in
NCAA-sponsored postseason competitions. It also prohibits NCAA members
using American Indian imagery from hosting postseason events. These
include NCAA-sanctioned Division-I bowl games, men's and women's
basketball NIT tournaments and post-season tournaments for all NCAA
So far, at least half of the 18 schools originally deemed "hostile
and abusive" have appealed:
-The Florida State Seminoles, Utah Utes and Central Michigan
Chippewas got the OK because namesake tribes supported the uses.
-The Bradley Braves, Newberry College Indians and Illinois Fighting
Illini appealed but lost and remain on the list.
-The North Dakota Fighting Sioux appealed, lost and are currently
awaiting a decision on their second appeal.
-The Indiana University-Pennsylvania Indians and McMurray University
Indians appealed, but have not received word from the NCAA.
-The Catawba College Indians and University of Louisiana-Monroe
Indians are both preparing appeals.
-The Arkansas State Indians are considering an appeal. The
Southeastern Oklahoma State Savages are re-evaluating the use of their
-Midwestern State dropped its "Indians" name to avoid application of
the NCAA policy. Carthage College changed its nickname from "Redmen"
to "Red Men," which the NCAA approved.
-Alcorn State, the only school on the list with a representative on
the NCAA Executive Committee, says it has no plans to appeal and is
considering a name change.
-Calls to Chowan College (Braves) and Mississippi College (Choctaws)
were not returned by press time.