The Fighting Sioux Strike Back

Last year, I described the NCAA's assault on the University of  Illinois' use of the nickname Fighting Illini, and their Chief Illiniwek mascot. George Will joins the anti—PC side of the debate today with a similar argument. But there is now good news to report — good news, that is, if you are not one of those who wake up each morning being offended by something, or assuming others are so offended.

After identifying 18 colleges and universities with nicknames or mascots that were 'hostile' and 'abusive', the NCAA allowed an appeals process by the schools. If an appeal was unsuccessful, and the school insisted on keeping its name, such college or university could not host an NCAA tournament event, nor participate in an NCAA event with any team members wearing any uniform with any words or symbols deemed hostile or abusive (team jerseys).

During the initial appeals process, the NCAA allowed four schools to continue the use of Indian names: Florida State (The Seminoles), University of Utah (the Utes), Central Michigan (the Chippewas), and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (the Braves). In each case, local tribes let the NCAA know they were not offended, and did not consider the names hostile and abusive. The Fighting Illini won a half victory. They could continue to be the Illini (now that was big of the NCAA), but the Chief had to go (though there was no Illini tribe in the state that fought this).

But the big loser was the University of North Dakota (the Fighting Sioux). A very wealthy alumnus gave a large gift to UND to build a new hockey rink for their national powerhouse mens' hockey team. But part of the deal for the new stadium was that the Fighting Sioux emblem would be prominently displayed. A few Sioux tribes in the Dakotas were unhappy with the team name, and so the NCAA rejected the University's initial appeal.

But now comes word of some good news on the sanity front. The second and final appeal filed by the University of North Dakota apparently got the NCAA mandarins concerned that they themselves may have violated NCAA rules and guidelines by picking the 18 schools and threatening tournament sanctions through bureaucratic power. Apparently, the NCAA members are entitled to a say in this through their legislative process.

So now, the NCAA has notified the schools still on the threat list that the threatened sanctions will not be imposed for at least four months  past the original deadline of Feb. 1. And there may be a vote by the NCAA member schools on the proposed actions.

If it is college and university presidents who do the voting, I don't expect much help for the 14 schools remaining  on the black (I mean Indian) list.  Athletic directors would be more reasonable, if they voted, of course. Since coaches are often the highest—paid employees of a university or college, I would empower them to do the voting, had I the choice. Alternatively, the NCAA could pull back, and admit they were wrong, overreaching, and overly sensitive.

But don't bet on this, since in academia, every issue is always worthy of scornful political correctness.

So it is unclear if a victory is in sight, or just a delay. But at least for one more season, the Fighting Illini will have the chief dance at home games, because the the Fighting Sioux have iced the NCAA.

Richard Baehr  1 05 06

Last year, I described the NCAA's assault on the University of  Illinois' use of the nickname Fighting Illini, and their Chief Illiniwek mascot. George Will joins the anti—PC side of the debate today with a similar argument. But there is now good news to report — good news, that is, if you are not one of those who wake up each morning being offended by something, or assuming others are so offended.

After identifying 18 colleges and universities with nicknames or mascots that were 'hostile' and 'abusive', the NCAA allowed an appeals process by the schools. If an appeal was unsuccessful, and the school insisted on keeping its name, such college or university could not host an NCAA tournament event, nor participate in an NCAA event with any team members wearing any uniform with any words or symbols deemed hostile or abusive (team jerseys).

During the initial appeals process, the NCAA allowed four schools to continue the use of Indian names: Florida State (The Seminoles), University of Utah (the Utes), Central Michigan (the Chippewas), and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (the Braves). In each case, local tribes let the NCAA know they were not offended, and did not consider the names hostile and abusive. The Fighting Illini won a half victory. They could continue to be the Illini (now that was big of the NCAA), but the Chief had to go (though there was no Illini tribe in the state that fought this).

But the big loser was the University of North Dakota (the Fighting Sioux). A very wealthy alumnus gave a large gift to UND to build a new hockey rink for their national powerhouse mens' hockey team. But part of the deal for the new stadium was that the Fighting Sioux emblem would be prominently displayed. A few Sioux tribes in the Dakotas were unhappy with the team name, and so the NCAA rejected the University's initial appeal.

But now comes word of some good news on the sanity front. The second and final appeal filed by the University of North Dakota apparently got the NCAA mandarins concerned that they themselves may have violated NCAA rules and guidelines by picking the 18 schools and threatening tournament sanctions through bureaucratic power. Apparently, the NCAA members are entitled to a say in this through their legislative process.

So now, the NCAA has notified the schools still on the threat list that the threatened sanctions will not be imposed for at least four months  past the original deadline of Feb. 1. And there may be a vote by the NCAA member schools on the proposed actions.

If it is college and university presidents who do the voting, I don't expect much help for the 14 schools remaining  on the black (I mean Indian) list.  Athletic directors would be more reasonable, if they voted, of course. Since coaches are often the highest—paid employees of a university or college, I would empower them to do the voting, had I the choice. Alternatively, the NCAA could pull back, and admit they were wrong, overreaching, and overly sensitive.

But don't bet on this, since in academia, every issue is always worthy of scornful political correctness.

So it is unclear if a victory is in sight, or just a delay. But at least for one more season, the Fighting Illini will have the chief dance at home games, because the the Fighting Sioux have iced the NCAA.

Richard Baehr  1 05 06