25, No. 8, Oct. 20, 2005
appeals NCAA policy
the full NCAA appeal
The appeal letter and its supporting documents are
available as a PDF.
On the left hand side of the screen, click below
Reports and Dialogues.
The UI has appealed
the National Collegiate Athletic Association policy that labels the
Urbana-Champaign campus’s use of the names Illini and Fighting
Illini and the Chief Illiniwek tradition “hostile and abusive.”
The university’s appeal was filed with the NCAA Oct. 14 in the
form of a six-page letter from UI Board of Trustees Chair Lawrence C.
Eppley. The NCAA policy is scheduled to take effect Feb. 1. Four other
public institutions among the original 18 cited by the NCAA in its new
policy have appealed; three appeals were granted, and the institutions
were removed from the list. The fourth appeal was denied.
The university contends that the NCAA acted “incorrectly and unfairly”
last August. The appeal claims that the NCAA’s failure to exempt
the university from the arbitrarily derived policy will significantly
affect its institutional autonomy and impair its ability to participate
fully and equally as a member institution in NCAA competition.
The appeal maintains that the NCAA’s edict overstepped the association’s
authority and interfered with an existing university process to determine
a consensus outcome on issues regarding the Chief Illiniwek tradition.
It asks the NCAA to remove the UI’s Urbana campus from an NCAA
list of so-called “hostile and abusive” member institutions.
“The new (NCAA) policy conflicts directly with established NCAA
principles of institutional responsibility and autonomy. It also incorrectly
and unfairly characterizes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
as an institution that displays ‘hostile or abusive’ American
Indian mascots, nicknames and imagery because of the names Illini and
Fighting Illini and the Chief Illiniwek tradition,” the appeal
The UI appeal notes that in responding to four prior appeals the NCAA
indicated that approval by “namesake” American Indian tribes
of the institutions’ respective names and mascots is “one
primary, but not exclusive” factor to be considered. The UI appeal
points out the Illiniwek confederation of Indian tribes no longer exists
and contends that the NCAA should take into account this differentiating
“As you have stated, each appeal has its own unique facts and
should stand on its own merit,” the university’s letter
to the NCAA says.
The appeal cites these reasons why an exemption from the policy is warranted
As the statutorily established governing entity, the University of
Illinois Board of Trustees is engaged in a process to seek a consensus
conclusion to issues regarding the Chief Illiniwek tradition. Permitting
the university to resolve the situation without undue interference
by the NCAA comports with principles set forth in the NCAA Constitution
and acknowledged by the Executive Committee to be vital.
“As with other significant university policy issues, the policies
regarding the use of the names Illini and Fighting Illini and the
Chief Illiniwek tradition lie within the jurisdiction of the board,”
the letter states, citing a series of board initiatives in the past
16 months toward reaching a “consensus conclusion” on
Chief Illiniwek issues.
“The university should be allowed to continue its work unfettered
by the NCAA’s arbitrary new policy and the corresponding deadline.
Permitting the university to resolve this situation without undue
interference by the NCAA comports with principles set forth in the
NCAA constitution and acknowledged by the (NCAA) Executive Committee
to be vital,” the appeal states.
“Illini” and “Fighting Illini” names. The
names as used by the university do not derive from American Indian
imagery. The Illini name was first coined in 1874 by the student newspaper,
and it honors the state from which the university takes its name.
“Fighting Illini” is common nomenclature for competitive
athletic teams, such as the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre
Dame and the Fighting Scots of Monmouth College (Ill.). Early uses
of the “fighting” adjective dates back to championship
football teams of the Coach Bob Zuppke era 85 years ago and to the
1921 fundraising drive for Memorial Stadium, dedicated to university
people who fought and died in World War I.
“Illini is a reference not only to athletic teams, but also
to nearly 40,000 students, 374,500 alumni and all those who wish to
associate themselves in a positive way with Illinois’ largest
public university and one of the nation’s great land-grant universities,”
the appeal maintains.
in 1926 in conjunction with the Marching Band, the Chief Illiniwek
tradition and signature interpretive half-time performance preserve
and showcase tradition, heritage and culture. Chief Illiniwek performances
are brief and limited; the Chief does not act in the manner of stereotypical
sports mascots. In direct contradiction of the NCAA’s “hostile
and abusive” declaration, the U.S. Department of Education Office
for Civil Rights, a federal agency charged with enforcement of Title
VI of the Civil Rights Act, concluded in 1995 after a thorough on-campus
inquiry that neither the Chief Illiniwek tradition nor the name Fighting
Illini created a hostile environment.
“A federal agency charged with enforcing Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 concluded that neither the Chief Illiniwek tradition
nor the name Fighting Illini created a hostile environment. We submit
that an NCAA committee or subcommittee could not sensibly reach the
opposition conclusion,” the appeal contends.
NCAA process was flawed. The
NCAA is unclear in defining how it determined what constitutes “hostile”
or “abusive” behavior by the member institutions it cited,
and the organization failed to follow its own policies and procedures
in issuing the new policy. An institutional self-evaluation questionnaire
was limited in scope and the university’s responses apparently
received scant consideration.
“The ‘process’ that led the Executive Committee
to issue the new policy and to include the University of Illinois
in the list of ‘hostile and abusive’ institutions is murky
at best,” the appeal states. “The ‘process’
led to inaccurate and erroneous results, as acknowledged by the NCAA.”
In conclusion, it petitions the NCAA to “exempt the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from its new policy, and withdraw
the NCAA’s unflattering and incorrect characterization of the
university by removing its name from the list of member institutions
cited in the policy.”