Utah files appeal asking to continue using Utes name


SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has filed an appeal with the NCAA, asking the organization that governs college sports to let the university continue using the Utes nickname for its athletic teams.

The university's president, Michael K. Young, sent the seven-page appeal on Wednesday, seeking removal from a list of 18 schools with American Indian nicknames, mascots or images.

On Aug. 4, the NCAA announced that it would ban the use of American Indian images and nicknames by school representatives at postseason tournaments starting in February. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders will also be barred from using Indian images on their uniforms beginning in 2008.

The decision also prohibits schools with American Indian mascots from hosting future NCAA postseason events. Schools that have already been awarded postseason tournaments would have to cover any Indian depictions in their sports venues.

The school's mascot dresses as a red-tailed hawk and has nothing to do with the state's Indian heritage. Other than the name, the only Indian reference the school uses is two feathers on the "U" emblem.

The university asked for a decision before Friday's nationally televised football game on ESPN against the Arizona Wildcats.

The Indianapolis-based NCAA said there would be no decision by Friday and declined to say when a ruling might be expected.

"The university is anxious to have this matter resolved," Young wrote to Bernard Franklin, NCAA vice president of governance and membership in Indiana.

The appeal includes two letters in support of the university's position, one from Maxine Natchees, chairwoman of the Uintah and Ouray Tribal Business Committee, and one from Craig Thompson, commissioner of the Mountain West Conference.

"The Ute Indian Tribe has formally approved the University of Utah's use of the Ute name and supports the university's continued use of it," Natchees wrote in her letter dated Monday.

Natchees described to Franklin an "effective" partnership between the Ute Tribe and the university, saying the university has sponsored educational programs and provided scholarships to tribal members.

On Aug. 24, the Ute Tribal Business Committee adopted a resolution that said the school's use of the Ute nickname has been done with honor and respect for tribal culture.

The appeal also included a 2003 memorandum of understanding and another resolution, both saying the university would be establishing cooperative education programs and initiatives for the Ute Indian Tribe.

The NCAA has said that approval from American Indian tribes would be a primary factor in deciding appeals from schools that want to use such nicknames and mascots in postseason play. The NCAA granted Florida State's appeal for continued use of the nickname Seminoles.