Thursday, May 04, 2006

Daily Illini Editorial: Save the last fancy dance

Editorial: Save the last fancy dance
NCAA denies appeal on the Chief, leaving consequences for Unversity
Daily Illini
In the May 1, edition of The Daily Illini, the editorial "Save the last fancy dance," incorrectly stated that the men's tennis team was "slated" to host the NCAA regionals. They were just a likely candidate. In addition, the editorial stated that Chief Osceola and the Utah Utes "were deemed inoffensive on grounds that were never explained clearly." Instead, they were deemed inoffensive because permission had been granted on behalf of their respective tribes to use the symbols.

For the sake of diffusing vociferous public criticism, NCAA has once again denied the University's appeal to be released from the "hostile and abusive" list for the use of Chief Illiniwek as its symbol. The capricious grandstanding by NCAA President Myles Brand and the self-righteous officials is not only unfair for its selective punishment, but seriously infringes upon the University's right for self-determination.

The NCAA ruling should appall even those who support retiring Chief Illiniwek. Unless the NCAA is going to start making decisions for every university, this is an egregious and completely arbitrary abuse of power by NCAA President Myles Brand and his cronies. The University is a body that makes its own decisions, and the decision to retire the Chief should come from its Board of Trustees. NCAA's high-handed tactics to strong-arm this institution into submission is simply unacceptable.

NCAA tries to sidestep the autonomy issue by arguing that it lacks the power to make the University retire the Chief. But the NCAA's ruling will pose problems for our school which will only multiply until we comply with their implicit mandate. There are consequences to retiring the Chief beyond just ending the halftime dance and taking off the Chief's likeness from uniforms. The University will lose a source of income from its licensing agreements. With the University's budget as tight as it is right now, cutting off any revenue is something that simply should not be done without a great deal of discussion and thought.

Moreover, though the Chief performs only at four sporting events (football, volleyball, and men's and women's basketball) every Big Ten sport is affected. The University is prohibited from hosting any postseason sports tournaments until the retirement of the Chief - including men's tennis, which was originally slated to host regionals this year.

In addition, the hypocrisy shown by Brand and Co. is simply a matter of selective enforcement. One would think, if the NCAA's ruling were in good faith, that mocking an entire race and ethnic group would be stopped, but Brand and the NCAA seem to think it's only some of the schools that use American Indian symbols that do this. Florida State's Chief Osceola and the Uta Utes are deemed inoffensive on grounds that were never explained clearly. Further, the icon for Notre Dame harkens back to the days when Irish immigrants were subject to violence and exploitation as the bottom rung of industrial American society and stereotyped as alcoholics.

The truth is that NCAA would not press the big-time programs like Notre Dame or Florida State. Brand & Co. will never try to enforce the rules with schools that bankroll the NCAA. It instead picks on schools like Bradley and Carthage, which pull no weight on the grand scheme of things, and this University, where external pressure just might tip the balance on the heated and unproductive debate over its symbol.

The University and its Board of Trustees must do everything in their power to repulse the NCAA from blackmailing this campus into submission. An open debate at the University among its students, faculty and staff about the future of Chief Illiniwek should continue, although the time for the trustees to make a firm stance is approaching quickly. Such an abrupt and illogical ending to the visceral conflict that has divided this campus for so long will leave this University scarred and impotent.
© Copyright 2006 The Daily Illini


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