Illinois formally appeals nickname ban to NCAA

Updated: October 18, 2005, 5:03 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois has appealed an NCAA ruling that could bar the school from hosting championship events at its Urbana-Champaign campus because of the school's nickname and mascot.

The long-expected appeal accuses the NCAA of unfairly characterizing the "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" nicknames and Chief Illiniwek mascot as "hostile and abusive," Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence C. Eppley said in his six-page appeal letter.

The letter, which was released Friday, was accompanied by 21 pages of supporting documentation.

"This new policy conflicts directly with the established NCAA principles of institutional responsibility and autonomy. ... Your failure or refusal to exempt UIUC from this arbitrarily derived policy will significantly affect our institutional autonomy and impair our ability to participate fully and equally as a member institution in NCAA competition," Eppley wrote in the letter, dated Thursday.

The NCAA ruling, announced Aug. 5, bans the use of American Indian mascots or nicknames by sports teams during its postseason tournaments. It also would bar teams that use them from hosting postseason events after the rule goes into effect on Feb. 1, 2006.

Illinois was one of 18 schools deemed to have nicknames or imagery that are "hostile or abusive" to American Indians. Three schools -- Florida State, Central Michigan and Utah -- already have won their appeals while one, the University of North Dakota, lost its appeal last month.

"Each institution has demonstrated very distinctive characteristics to their situations," UI spokesman Thomas Hardy said. "The NCAA hopefully will recognize how we are different from the other institutions that they've dealt with so far and will give us a favorable review in a timely fashion."

The Illinois appeal is the latest on a list that includes ones from Newberry College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Bradley University, an NCAA spokesman said Friday.

"We're handling them in the order in which they were received," spokesman Bob Williams said.

Williams didn't know how long it would take for the Illinois appeal to be decided.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press