- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

Had the NCAA Executive Committee followed their own directive and only banned “hostile and abusive racial/ ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery,” then the association might have been able to avoid last week’s resounding media backlash. But the committee, composed of presidents from NCAA-affiliated institutions, chose not to delve into the subtleties — or definitions, for that matter — of “hostile and abusive” when applied to American Indian mascots, and instead it simply prohibited all such mascots and monikers. The NCAA will only apply this ban during official NCAA championship events.

The name restriction becomes absurd when applied to the Florida State University Seminoles, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini and the University of Utah Utes (though presumably the latter schools can still compete with their state names, Illinois and Utah, unabridged). Aside from the plight of American Indians today (a real problem that this superficial name change will do nothing to allay), what separates the Seminoles, for instance, from any other mascot constructed from a group prominent in a particular region’s heritage? Is Purdue University to be condemned for a mascot that may be misconstrued as a caricature of heavy industry in Indiana (the Boilermakers), or is the University of Nebraska for what may be falsely seen as a mockery of farm workers (the Cornhuskers)? And it seems tremendously hypocritical of the NCAA not to be more consistent in its understanding of race, ethnicity and national origin, evidenced in the association’s lack of concern with Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish.

Faced with grievances, school administrations in the past have proven quick to change names and mascots. In the late 1970s, Syracuse University retired its Indian mascot, the Saltine Warrior, after complaints that it was derogatory. In 1997, the administration at Miami University of Ohio approved a name change from the Redskins to the RedHawks at the request of the school’s namesake, the Miami Tribe. Among the potential new mascots deemed acceptable and considered by the trustees, it is worth noting, was the name Miamis.

In his response to the widespread denouncement of the new policy, NCAA president Myles Brand issued a statement Thursday supporting his association’s decision while also making it clear that institutions that have prior agreements with Native American tribes granting use of a name and mascot — Florida State University’s long-standing relationship with the Seminole Indians is a fine example — would have strong ground for an appeal, and appeals would be taken seriously. We certainly hope so, lest the NCAA warrant a few new nicknames of its own.

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