NCAA Bans Indian Mascots in Postseason Play


From the Wash Times:

The NCAA banned the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments, but will not prohibit them otherwise.

The NCAA executive committee decided this week the organization did not have the authority to bar Indian mascots by individual schools, committee Chairman Walter Harrison said yesterday.

Nicknames or mascots deemed "hostile or abusive" would not be allowed on team uniforms or other clothing beginning with any NCAA tournament after Feb. 1, said Mr. Harrison, president of the University of Hartford.

"What each institution decides to do is really its own business" outside NCAA championship events, he said. "What we are trying to say is that we find these mascots to be unacceptable for NCAA championship competition."

At least 18 schools have mascots the NCAA deems "hostile or abusive," including Florida State's Seminole and Illinois' Fighting Illini. In fact, the state of Illinois is named for the same tribe, and the names of a majority of the 50 states are of Indian origin. Others banned are the Utes of Utah, the Chippewas of Eastern Michigan and the Indians of Arkansas State and the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

Whole story here.

A few things to consider before the ritual bashing of P.C. begins:

Most Indian-derived school nicknames are of relatively recent (read the 1920s-'50s) origin, so it's not exactly like these monickers were handed down by Moses. The relationship can in fact be pretty convoluted: Dartmouth, for instance, has a longstanding connection to Indians; its 19th century sports nickname was "Big Green," which was changed in the 20th century to the Indian before reverting back to the color (that "the Big" in Dartmouth name is wishful thinking, even in the J.V. playground that is the Ivy League, is neither here nor there).

Some schools using names such as "Braves" or "Warriors" will not face sanctions, either because they've got high percentages of Indian students and/or don't use native American imagery in their logos, etc.

The Florida State Seminole situation is interesting: FSU has permission from the Sunshine State's tribe members both for its team name and its full-Indian-regalia mascot, which you would think make the situation kosher. But non-Florida-based Seminoles object, thus the school's inclusion on the NCAA's forbidden list. This seems dubious at best.

Common sense dictates that there's some difference between some names (e.g. Southeastern Oklahoma State University's Savages) and others (e.g. the University of Utah's Utes).

Miami University of Ohio went through a controversial but relatively painless name change in the late '90s, from the Redskins to the (lame) Redhawks. Miami, named in 1809 for the tribe that was effectively run out by European settlers, has maintained tight relations with the tribe (one assumes it became easier to be friendly once the natives had been resettled to Oklahoma). For a long time, the tribe publicly supported the use of the Redskins name, even deeming it an honor. Later, they petitioned for the change, writing to the school in 1996 that "society changes, and what was intended to be a tribute is no longer perceived as positive."

"The Fighting Irish" is not equivalent to anything related to native American mascot names, for at least two reasons. First off, the apparent inventors of the term were themselves Irish and in all my years as a son of Hibernia, I've never heard any Irishman or woman complain about it or the school's Darby O'Gill and the Little People-like mascot. Second, everyone, even and perhaps especially Catholics, hates Notre Dame, and not simply because Regis Philbin went there. And while I am not even authorized to speak for the other Irish and semi-Irish on Reason's staff (a plurality, if not more, including Alissi, Cavanaugh, Doherty, Howley,
Walker, and, of course, everyone on St. Patrick's Day), much less the Molly Maguires of the greater United States, let me proactively suggest we give it a rest that the Irish in America ever faced something equivalent to the experience of blacks or Indians, despite the best efforts of desperate minds.