Oregon officials point to future changes

Updated: December 8, 2004, 9:02 AM ET
Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. -- University of Oregon officials say the men's basketball team will play top-ranked Illinois in Chicago this weekend, despite calls from faculty and student groups to cancel the game because the Fighting Illini have an American Indian mascot.

University officials, however, agreed to adopt a policy on the scheduling of future games with schools that have mascots deemed offensive.

Dan Williams, vice president for administration, told the Register-Guard newspaper that the university signed contracts to play Illinois in 2004 and 2005, believing the mascot issue would be resolved by now.

The University of Illinois board of trustees took up the issue in June, but decided against taking a yes-or-no vote on the Chief Illiniwek mascot.

"We had reason to believe they were going to eliminate (the mascot) well in advance of our games," Williams said.

Williams said he has asked the university's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee to propose a policy that can be put in place by the end of the winter academic term in March.

"We set a deadline to let students know we're serious about this," he said. "We don't have any disagreement on this issue. The only point of disagreement is on canceling the [Illinois] games."

Saturday's game is a contractual arrangement between the two universities, while next year's game in Portland involves a contract with ESPN Regional.

Critics say they're pleased the university has committed to such a policy, but remain frustrated that Saturday's game will be played.

"The policy doesn't feel like enough," said Natasha Joseph, director of the Native American Student Union on campus. "Playing these games seem kind of in opposition to a formal policy, when they have the option to make a stance and show some integrity."

The university's Student Senate last week unanimously approved a resolution declaring the use of "indigenous sports mascots" to be a violation of the school's mission statement and nondiscrimination policies. The Faculty and Staff of Color Coalition called the university's decision to play the games "a dishonor and insult" to American Indians at the university.

Officials from both schools have decided that the mascot -- a white student dressed in Plains Indian headdress and garb -- won't appear at next year's game in Portland.

At least one campus, the University of Wisconsin, already has a policy restricting the use of visiting teams' American Indian logos and names.

The Badgers do not schedule regular-season games with a team using an American Indian mascot or nickname unless the team is a traditional rival or a conference member. The escape clause pertains to Illinois, a Big 10 Conference opponent.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press