Denied Indian mascot, McMurry forgoes nickname

ABILENE, Texas -- "Go team go!" is how McMurry University
fans will be cheering from now on.

"Going to a mascot that has four legs and fur just didn't fit who we are. To take another mascot would be to turn our back on our 83-year history. We know who we are."
-- McMurry President John Russell

After the NCAA rejected McMurry's appeals to keep its Indian mascot, the board of trustees at the private, 1,400-student university dropped the name -- and
then decided to forgo a nickname altogether.

"Going to a mascot that has four legs and fur just didn't fit
who we are," McMurry President John Russell told The Associated
Press on Monday. "To take another mascot would be to turn our back
on our 83-year history. We know who we are."

The university is affiliated with the United Methodist Church,
which has strongly encouraged its schools that use such nicknames
to change them. But Russell said McMurry's nickname was a symbol of
deep respect for the American Indian culture.

After getting input from students, faculty and alumni, McMurry
opted against choosing another mascot, fighting for the chance to
keep it or leaving the NCAA for another athletic association,
Russell said.

The decision, announced Friday during homecoming, will allow
McMurry to retain good standing with the NCAA, which has found
Indian mascots to be racially or ethnically hostile or offensive.

Russell also said the NCAA has suggested member schools might
have been discouraged from scheduling games against teams with
Indian nicknames.

The school must buy new team uniforms and remove Indian images
from sports facilities, which could cost up to $150,000 but will
probably cost less, he said. All changes will be made by the spring
sports season.

Cheerleaders and band members won't be allowed to yell, "Go
Indians!" although Russell said individual fans have a First
Amendment right to do so, and radio announcers may accidentally
"slip up."

"But we've made it clear we're going to move on," Russell

The college's first president, James Winford Hunt, chose Indians
as McMurry's nickname out of respect for the Kaw Indians, among
whom he lived in his youth.

Russell said McMurry will continue its non-sports activities
honoring American Indian culture, which permeates the campus. Tipi
Village, with its authentic structures, attracts hundreds of local
students each year.

McMurry's final appeal to keep the mascot was denied in August,
a year after the NCAA issued a policy sanctioning schools using
Indian mascots.

After meeting for several months, a McMurry committee studying
its options presented its findings at the trustees' meeting Friday,
and the board voted to go without a mascot.

Russell said the school will revisit the issue if students bring
it up in the future.

McMurry was one of 19 schools affected by the NCAA's decision to
ban Indian mascots during postseason tournaments and to prohibit
the institution from hosting NCAA-sponsored postseason games.

Five schools named after specific tribes, such as the Florida
State Seminoles, made successful appeals -- thanks in large part to
approval from their namesake tribes -- and were removed from the

Five schools changed or are changing their nickname, including
Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, which became the Mustangs. One
school was allowed to keep its nickname but was put on a watch
list. The University of North Dakota announced that state officials
voted to sue the NCAA to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname.