NCAA puts Bradley on watch list

INDIANAPOLIS -- Despite a letter from one tribal leader in support of the Fighting Sioux nickname, North Dakota lost its appeal to the NCAA on Friday while Illinois and Indiana University of Pennsylvania didn't fare any better.

The governing body's executive committee rejected appeals from all three schools that would have allowed them to use Indian nicknames or images without penalty. Bradley, the fourth school with an appeal, became the nation's first to appear on a five-year watch list.

The NCAA's message was clear: It would not retreat from its policy banning the use of "hostile" and "abusive" Indian nicknames, mascots and imagery at championship events.

"The NCAA has a responsibility to make sure its events are treated with respect for all and making sure that the environment is fully respectful," NCAA president Myles Brand said during a conference call.

Friday's decisions came nearly eight months after Brand first announced the policy, which prohibits offenders from hosting postseason games and bars the use of Indian nicknames and images by everyone from coaches and players to cheerleaders and band members.

Critics contend the NCAA should not legislate social behavior or morality. Brand, however, believes the policy could create more dialogue on campuses and in communities about showing respect for Indians.

Instead of backing down, the executive committee expanded the policy to include a prohibition for offenders from hosting tournament games at off-campus sites. In the August announcement, NCAA officials banned those schools from hosting tournament games on campus.

North Dakota president Charles Kupchella was surprised by the rejection after the university included a letter from Archie Fool Bear, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's judicial committee, in its documentation.

Schools such as Florida State, Utah and Central Michigan all used supporting letters from nearby tribes to win their appeals.

"We are not only disappointed by the NCAA's action, we are baffled by it," Kupchella said.

The problem, committee chair Walter Harrison said, was that Standing Rock chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder also sent a letter -- opposing North Dakota's nickname.

"That was new evidence to me and it was very helpful," Harrison said. "Coming from the chairman of the tribe, we found that to be very compelling."

Like Bradley, Illinois is now in a unique position.

Illinois won an appeal in November to keep its nickname after demonstrating the use of Fighting Illini was not a direct Indian reference. School officials argued the term also referred to veterans from World War I.

But Friday's decision still bans Illinois from using its mascot, Chief Illiniwek, and other Indian images at postseason games. The school also cannot host tournament games.

Chief Illiniwek, a student dressed in buckskins, dances at halftime of regular-season home football and basketball games and other athletic contests.

"By branding an 80-year tradition 'hostile and abusive,' the NCAA inappropriately defames generations of Illinoisans and University of Illinois supporters," Illinois board of trustees
chairman Lawrence Eppley said.

Bradley, nicknamed the Braves, stopped using a mascot and Indian imagery about 10 years ago -- a move NCAA officials applauded. That helped Bradley avoid immediate penalties, but it now faces NCAA monitoring of its nickname and imagery at games, on campus and on Web sites.

It was the second and final appeal for all four schools.

Brand would not say whether the schools could file more appeals if they produce more evidence. The schools do have one additional option -- in court.

"There's always an opportunity for institutions to seek remedies in the courts," Brand said. "But be assured, the NCAA feels very confident in its decision and will defend it [the policy] to the utmost."

Seven of the original 18 schools on the offenders list remain there. Newberry College in South Carolina still appears on the list despite an appeal pending with the executive committee.

Three other schools are awaiting reviews, including the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Nicknamed the Tribe, William and Mary was added to the list in October after submitting an evaluation and has requested an extension because of administrative changes.

Five schools have agreed to change or have changed their nicknames already and four others won appeals -- warranting the removal of all nine schools.