NCAA rejects Illinois' appeal of mascot ban

Updated: November 11, 2005, 7:41 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois lost its appeal of the ban on the university mascot Friday and will remain on a list of schools prohibited from hosting NCAA postseason events after February.

The NCAA will allow Illinois to keep its "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" nicknames. The university contended those nicknames derived from the name of the state.

The governing body, however, said Chief Illiniwek remains a "hostile and abusive" image of American Indians. The mascot is a student dressed in buckskins and headdress who dances at halftimes of home football, basketball and volleyball games. The tradition began in 1926.

The NCAA says "Fighting Illini" can stay, but Chief Illinwek must go.

"The NCAA staff review committee found no new information relative to the mascot known as Chief Illiniwek or the logo mark used by some athletics teams that depicts a Native American in feathered headdress, to remove the university from the list," said Bernard Franklin, the NCAA's senior vice president for governance and membership.

School spokesman Tom Hardy says the university will study the decision before determining how it will proceed. The university can appeal to the NCAA executive committee.

Hardy said the university was gratified about the NCAA ruling on nicknames.

"I'm sure that will be comforting to the students and hundreds of thousands of alumni who are proud to call themselves Illini," he said.

The NCAA's decision on American Indian mascots, issued Aug. 5, bars universities on its list of schools deemed to use hostile imagery from hosting postseason championship events. It requires those schools to remove any offensive nickname or logo from team, cheerleader and band uniforms when participating in postseason tournaments.

The University of North Dakota, included on the NCAA list, is appealing.

The State Board of Higher Education next Thursday plans to consider a resolution that supports the appeals UND is making through the NCAA's internal process. It encourages UND to research and explore all options.

The proposed resolution also states that UND should conduct discussions with North Dakota Indian tribes "in order to find common ground."

"This is an attempt by me and our office to get something in front of the board and to respect their sentiments on the appropriate way to go forward," Chancellor Robert Potts said. "My sentiment from talking to individuals is that they have been very comfortable with the way [UND] President [Charles] Kupchella has handled the issue up to this point."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press