The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently announced a new policy banning colleges and universities from “displaying hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery” at any of its 88 postseason championship games, but it is unknown at this time how the new policy may affect the UI Board of Trustees’ efforts to reach consensus on Chief Illiniwek, which has been a topic of vigorous debate at the Urbana campus since at least the late 1980s.
The NCAA’s Executive Committee announced Aug. 5 that effective immediately student athletes cannot wear or display uniforms or paraphernalia with “hostile or abusive references” at NCAA championship games.
Effective Feb. 1, 2006, colleges or universities with Native American references or imagery will be required to “take reasonable steps to cover up those references” at NCAA championship sites that have already been awarded and those schools will be prohibited from hosting any NCAA championship competitions in the future.
The ban on uniforms or equipment with Native American references or imagery will extend to cheerleaders, band members and dance team members effective Aug. 1, 2008.
“Colleges and universities may adopt any mascot that they wish, as that is an institutional matter,” said Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA’s Executive Committee and president of the University of Hartford. “But as a national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control.”
The committee did not define what it deemed to be “hostile or abusive references” but said that 18 colleges and universities that use Native American imagery or names, including the UI’s Urbana campus, were subject to the new policy. The schools affected will be allowed to appeal to the NCAA for further review, and at least one, Florida State University, issued a statement expressing the school’s intent to pursue legal action to overturn the new rules.
In announcing the policy, NCAA officials commended the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin as exhibiting best practices by refusing to schedule athletic competitions with schools outside the conference that use Native American references.
When the UI Board of Trustees met in Chicago on July 14, they approved guidelines for reaching a consensus conclusion on the use of Chief Illiniwek and the name “Illini” for sports teams at the Urbana campus. Tom Hardy, executive director for university relations in the UI Office of University Relations, said it is unknown at this time how the new NCAA policy will influence the university’s efforts to resolve the Chief Illiniwek controversy.
Hardy said that the team, band and cheerleader uniforms at Urbana, which bear the word “Illinois” and the block “I” logo, comply with the NCAA’s new policy.
However, the policy could prohibit the UI’s Urbana campus from hosting NCAA championships. Illinois hosted the NCAA gymnastics championships in 2004 and has previously hosted early-round tournament competitions in women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis and soccer.
Halftime performances by the Chief have been limited to home games at Urbana since 1990, although he did appear at the Sugar Bowl in January 2002. Bowl Championship Series games are separate from the NCAA and are not subject to its policies.
In announcing its new policy, the NCAA urged member institutions to promote understanding and awareness about Native American culture and the negative impact of hostile or abusive symbols, names and imagery.
In the July 14 resolution and another adopted in September 2004, the UI trustees indicated that the university and the Urbana campus would preserve, affirm and celebrate American Indian culture and traditions and the state’s heritage.
At the request of Chancellor Richard Herman, a committee is assessing the impact of the Chief controversy on educational effectiveness at Urbana. The committee, chaired by Lizanne Destefano, associate dean of the Graduate College and a faculty member in educational policy studies, expects to complete its study by the end of the fall semester and report to Herman and the board of trustees in spring 2006.
In November 2004, the NCAA asked the UI and 32 other schools to submit self- evaluations about the use of Native American imagery and references on their campuses. Fourteen schools since have either removed all references to Native American culture or were deemed not to have such references. One institution, the College of William and Mary, was given an extension to complete its study.
Resolution for reaching consensus on Chief Illinwek approved by the UI Board of Trustees at its July 14 meeting.
- Seek consensus.
- Preserve tradition and heritage in concert with the board’s heritage resolution.*
- Retain the names “Fighting Illini” and “Illini.”
- Recognize the diversity of Illinois’ American Indian culture, past and present.
- Engage American Indian involvement in our efforts.
- Reflect the university’s core values of excellence, integrity and respect.
- Recognize the significant opportunities that university events, venues and forums provide to educate and inform our community and the public about American Indian culture, history and heritage.
*Approved Sept. 9, 2004, setting forth that the policy of the university and Urbana-Champaign campus would be to preserve, affirm and publicly celebrate the state’s heritage and its American Indian culture.
Whom does it affect?
Colleges and universities subject to the new NCAA policy on Native American references and imagery:
- Alcorn State University (Braves)
- Arkansas State University (Indians)
- Bradley University (Braves)
- Carthage College (Redmen)
- Catawba College (Indians)
- Central Michigan University (Chippewas)
- Chowan College (Braves)
- Florida State University (Seminoles)
- Indiana University – Pennsylvania (Indians)
- McMurry University (Indians)
- Midwestern State University (Indians)
- Mississippi College (Choctaws)
- Newberry College (Indians)
- Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Savages)
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illini)
- University of Louisiana – Monroe (Indians)
- University of North Dakota (Fighting Sioux)
- University of Utah (Utes)