UI officials issue rebuttal to NCAA
By Jodi Heckel
Thursday March 30, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS – In a document sent to the NCAA this week, the University of Illinois reiterated its arguments that the NCAA Executive Committee exceeded its authority in establishing a policy on the use of American Indian imagery.
It also said the NCAA has not provided evidence that supports the policy, and it is only now identifying a standard of review for appeals and defining the terms "hostile" and "abusive."
The UI sent a six-page rebuttal signed by Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Eppley to the NCAA on Tuesday. The UI appealed the NCAA's policy regarding its use of Chief Illiniwek on Jan. 30. An NCAA staff committee filed a response to that appeal earlier this month, and the UI's most recent filing rebuts the arguments made by that committee.
The committee stated that American Indian imagery is a "core issue" affecting the NCAA and so the Executive Committee has jurisdiction over the issue. But the UI says the NCAA Executive Committee doesn't have the power to enact legislation, and its bylaws specifically state the establishment and control of NCAA championships are part of the legislative process.
"Moreover, the NCAA's position would give the Executive Committee virtually unlimited power," the rebuttal states. "If the NCAA is correct, the Executive Committee could issue policies on any issue it unilaterally deems to be a 'core issue.'"
The NCAA response stated it relied on "extensive research and analysis" in establishing its policy on American Indian mascots. The UI says the NCAA hasn't specifically identified that evidence or made it available.
The UI also reiterates its claims that the NCAA has ignored a 1995 federal Office of Civil Rights finding that the presence of Chief Illiniwek did not constitute a racially hostile environment, and the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging a violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
Finally, it argues the NCAA staff committee relied too heavily on a single unpublished academic study by a doctoral student on the psychological impact of American Indian mascots.
The NCAA established its policy last August. The policy prohibits schools that it deems use "hostile or abusive" American Indian mascots, nicknames or logos from hosting NCAA championship events, or from displaying such imagery at those events.
The UI first appealed the NCAA policy last fall. The NCAA found the name "Fighting Illini" was acceptable, but Chief Illiniwek was not. The UI then filed its second appeal at the end of January regarding the use of Chief Illiniwek
The NCAA policy was to go into effect Feb. 1, but the organization said any sanctions would be delayed until the end of April, when the Executive Committee next meets. In its January appeal, the UI asked for enforcement of the policy to be stayed until the end of the school year on May 15.
The documents filed by the UI and the NCAA can be found on the UI's Web site at