Northwestern, Illinois to end tomahawk trophy's 60-year run

Updated: November 21, 2008, 8:30 PM ET
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy will be retired after Saturday's Northwestern-Illinois game, as Illinois takes another step toward eliminating any Native American imagery from its athletic programs.

The Wildcats and Fighting Illini have played for the tomahawk since 1945, and the current trophy has been at stake since 1947.

"Out of tremendous respect for the Native American community, the two universities have decided this would be the last year we play for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said.

Regardless who wins Saturday, the trophy will remain with Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. The schools will begin plans for a new trophy next year.

Kent Brown, Illinois assistant athletic director for public relations, said the school's board of trustees ruled several months ago the trophy would be retired.

"We'll be working together after the new year on what the new trophy would be," Brown said. "Both schools definitely want to continue the trophy series. Our board of trustees directed our chancellor to [eliminate] all references to Native American imagery on our campus, and this was one of those."

Illinois retired its longtime mascot, Chief Illiniwek, in February 2007, ending a long debate over the 81-year-old tradition. The NCAA ruled that Illinois had to remove Native American imagery or the school wouldn't be allowed to host postseason tournaments.

The Illini hold a 37-27-2 edge in the all-time Sweet Sioux Tomahawk series and won the trophy last year in Champaign.

Adam Rittenberg covers the Big Ten for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.