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Illinois formally appeals nickname ban to NCAA

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.