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NCAA rejects two more challenges to mascot policy

The NCAA held firm to its Indian mascot policy on Friday, rejecting appeals filed by two schools whose "Fighting Sioux" and "Chief Illiniwek" symbols are among the most controversial.

The decision by the NCAA's executive committee again cited the hostile and abusive nature of the two images. As a result, the University of North Dakota and the University of Illinois cannot host post-season tournaments or display Indian-imagery during playoffs.

The move sets up a possible court challenge by both institutions. But a prominent Indian leader in North Dakota praised the NCAA for taking a stand.

"As places of learning, colleges and universities have a fundamental responsibility to create an environment where every racial group is respected," said David Gipp, a UND alumnus who is president of the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. "There is no such thing as an 'honorable' denigration of a race or group of people."

Meanwhile, a third school was placed on a five-year watch after it removed all references to Indian imagery. Bradley University in Illinois will continue to be known as the "Braves" name and won't be subject to any restrictions on post-season play during the probation period.

The NCAA policy, announced last August, doesn't force any of its member universities and colleges to eliminate their Indian imagery. But five schools have gotten rid of their Indian mascots rather than fight to keep names like "Savages" and the "Red Men."

Four more schools have been removed from the NCAA's list after gaining approval from local tribes. The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the Ute Tribe of Utah said they have positive relationships with the institutions that bear their names.

The same couldn't be said of the University of North Dakota despite attempts by its president, Charles Kupchella, to garner tribal support for the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo. As recently as Thursday, he went on a media campaign to claim that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe backed the symbol.

But the tribe continues to oppose the name, chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder told the NCAA that same day. Kupchella was said to have been taken by surprise by the letter, which he became aware of while holding a press call to announce the tribe's alleged support.

"Amid UND's appeals of NCAA rulings in accordance with NCAA policies regarding use of American Indian athletic nicknames and logos, the SRST remains committed to protecting the integrity of the Dakota and Lakota (Sioux) culture and spirituality of its members, especially for SRST-member alumni and current students of UND," His Horse Is Thunder wrote.

The University of Illinois can't claim tribal support either, a position it somewhat backed itself into after successfully arguing before the NCAA that the "Illini" team name was not linked to any tribes. Now the school is being forced to explain how the "Chief Illiniwek" is not hostile or abusive to Native Americans despite its overt use of Indian imagery, including feathers, a headdress and "dance" movements.

Besides UND and Illinois, four other schools filed appeals of the mascot policy. But the NCAA has kept the Alcorn State University "Braves," the Arksanas State University "Indians" and the Indiana University "Indians" on the list. A final appeal by the Newberry College "Indians" is pending.

Three more schools are still waiting word on their initial status before the NCAA. The Catawba College "Indians," the McMurry University "Indians" and William and Mary's "Tribe" are being reviewed by NCAA staff.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Letter:
Ron His Horse Is Thunder (April 27, 2006)

NCAA Update:
Status of Indian Mascot Policy (April 28, 2006)

NCAA Executive Committee Decision:
Native American Mascot Appeals Decisions (April 28, 2006)

NCAA Staff Decision on Fighting Sioux:
Statement by NCAA Senior Vice-President for Governance and Membership Bernard Franklin on University of North Dakota Review(September 28, 2005)

NCAA Policy on Indian Mascots:
NCAA Executive Committee Issues Guidelines for Use of Native American Mascots at Championship Events (August 5, 2005)

Relevant Links:
University of North Dakota -
The Ralph -
Fighting Sioux -
NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee -

National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media -