- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

The Braves are caught in the cross hairs of the NCAA.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has asked the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) to re-evaluate its Indian mascot and logo in the name of proper cultural diversity. Trouble is, the school was founded in 1887 to educate American Indians.

In those days it was called the Croatan Normal School, later known as the Pembroke State College for Indians. Over a fifth of the current 5,000-member student body are Indians. The yearbook is called the Indianhead; the faculty newsletter, the Brave Bulletin, and the school boasts a charter chapter of Alpha Pi Omega — the nation’s first American Indian sorority.

Nevertheless, the NCAA has asked the university to reconsider the portrait of Indian warrior and red-tailed hawk emblazoned upon its 60-year-old logo. School officials have until May 1 to submit a study that justifies their use of the name and image.

“I don’t think any of us see the name or the mascot as a big deal. The ‘Braves’ is our tradition. If they make us change it, then yes — that would be a big deal,” said Kelly Griffith, editor of the Pine Needle, the student paper.

The paper polled students and found that 93 percent of the respondents did not want a mascot or name change. “If you take away the Brave, you take away that history,” wrote one student.

But the NCAA cites regulations established a decade ago that discourage school use of mottos and mascots that could prove offensive.

“This ties into our basic philosophies,” NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said. “Our constitution states it’s the responsibility of each campus to establish and maintain an environment which values cultural diversity and gender equality among student athletes and staff, and to promote an atmosphere of respect for the dignity of every person.”

Since 2002, the NCAA has asked 30 colleges and universities across the country with potentially controversial school symbols to also submit “institutional self-evaluations” — including campuses in Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi that use a Confederate flag in their logos.

The organization continues to monitor schools that still use the old logos, including such “behaviors” that might accompany them. The NCAA also reviews “conference policies for awarding championships to institutions and venues that use American Indian mascots, nicknames and logos,” according to a current policy statement.

Losing an NCAA-sanctioned event is no laughing matter for financially strapped schools: Student sports will generate $474 million from TV and marketing rights plus other fees this year, according to the association.

UNCP hopes to keep its Braves, in the meantime.

Chancellor Allen Meadors has formed a committee to oversee the evaluation — chaired by Zoe Locklear, dean of the School of Education and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee, the nation’s ninth-largest Indian tribe.

The 40,000-member Lumbee community supports the university’s use of an Indian-themed logo and has agreed to participate in an official opinion poll. The 13-member UNCP board of trustees — six of whom are Lumbee tribe members — also voted unanimously that the school should keep its Braves.

“The general feeling of the community is that people would be upset if we did change it. We will be collecting solid data to show that this is what the community wants,” Mr. Meadors told the committee Thursday.

Once the school’s report is submitted, it will be evaluated by the NCAA executive committee in August and again in October, Miss Dent said. Many campuses have heeded NCAA recommendations.

In recent years, Marquette University Warriors became the Golden Eagles, while Dartmouth dropped Indians in favor of Big Green. The Warriors of Arkansas-based Hendrix College traded their Indian logo for a shield.

The Mohawks of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts became the Trailblazers in 2002.

“People do a drum beat in the bleachers or use the tomahawk chop, and you can’t control what’s in the media,” noted Athletic Director Scott Nichols at the time. “No matter how much work it takes to change … it’s important to do the right thing.”

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