NCAA May Bow if American Indian Tribes Support Schools
SALT LAKE CITY
Two weeks after saying schools that use American Indian nicknames, mascots or imagery to represent their athletic teams could face NCAA sanctions, the governing body of college sports seems to be softening its stance — but only for those schools who have the cooperation of tribes.
Last week NCAA officials said that approval from American Indian tribes will be a “primary factor” in deciding appears from the 18 schools it recently named, including the University of Utah. Since 1972 the university has had the permission of Utah’s Ute Tribe to use the nickname “Ute” for its athletic teams.
“From our perspective it’s good news,” university president Michael Young said. “We have been saying for some time that our impression is that nobody intends to be abusive or offensive. I’ve been surprised that the NCAA has been less attentive to that perspective.”
The NCAA’s ruling will prohibit schools with American Indian mascots from hosting future NCAA postseason events. Schools that have already been awarded postseason tournaments would have to cover any American Indian depictions in their sports venues.
That would directly affect Utah’s largest public university, which has hosted more NCAA basketball tournament games than all but one other venue in the country, and is scheduled to host first- and second-round NCAA tournament basketball games in March 2006.
Some schools, like Florida State University, which uses the nickname Seminoles, have threatened lawsuits.
University of Utah officials plan to formally appeal the NCAA’s decision in the next week, Young said. The school plans to restate what they told NCAA staff in an evaluation of the subject conducted last year — they don’t use an American Indian mascot, and that they use the nickname “Utes” and their “drum-and-feather” logo in a respectful way with the approval of the Ute Tribe.
“We have a very powerful argument,” Young said.
NCAA appeals will be handled by organization senior vice president Bernard Franklin, who calls the issues “complex” and says the circumstances of each institution will be considered.
Young said he met with Ute Tribal Council leaders at Fort Duchesne three weeks ago and secured their continued support for the school’s use of the tribe’s name.
— Associated Press
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