NCAA forces Illini tennis team to play on the road

Updated: May 4, 2006, 7:01 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois' mascot has cost the school a chance to extend its seven-year streak of hosting NCAA men's tennis tournaments.

The NCAA's executive committee declined last week to remove Chief Illiniwek from its list of "hostile and abusive" mascots, making Illinois ineligible to host postseason athletic tournaments.

Supporters of the mascot, a student dressed in buckskins who dances at halftime, say it honors the state's heritage; opponents say it perpetuates a racial stereotype that demeans American Indians.

North Dakota and Indiana University of Pennsylvania also lost their appeal on Friday.

The Fighting Illini will play Western Illinois, the Mid-Continent Conference's automatic bid, on May 12 in the Louisville Regional.

Illinois, 22-6, ended the season ranked No. 8 and is the tournament's seventh seed. It is the Illini's 11th straight NCAA tournament appearance.

On Thursday, Illinois congressman Tim Johnson, whose district includes the university's main campus, and house speaker Dennis Hastert introduced legislation designed to prevent the NCAA from limiting schools' autonomy. The NCAA should "go back to scheduling ballgames and leave the social engineering to others," Johnson said in a written statement.

However, Johnson has said he doubts such a bill would ever become law.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press