NCAA denies another appeal

By Courtney Linehan

Indiana University of Pennsylvania will remain on the NCAA’s list of schools with “hostile and abusive” American Indian imagery, the NCAA recently announced.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania claimed that its “Indians” nickname is derived from the university’s location in Indiana, Penn. In its appeal, the school argued that because the nickname is a derivative of the town and county after which the school is located, it does not create a “hostile and abusive” environment.

Illinois made a similar argument in its appeal, which the NCAA denied on Nov. 11. While the NCAA staff review committee found that “Illini” and “Fighting Illini” are based on the word “Illinois” and are not offensive, the committee did not come to the same conclusion in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s case.

Instead, it applied reasoning very similar to that which was used in reference to Illinois’ Chief Illiniwek tradition. The committee said that while a tradition may not be carried out in mockery or with the intent to offend, schools cannot control how outside individuals or groups twist the imagery to make it abusive.

“While the university’s rationale for the use of the nickname is not inherently hostile or abusive, and the university may not intend to malign Native Americans, the continued use of Native American references as nicknames creates an environment over which an institution may not have full control,” the NCAA response to Indiana University of Pennsylvania stated.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania said its initial appeal was a “litmus test” of how the NCAA handled its appeals. Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Tony Atwater said school officials are still deciding what their next move will be.

In 1991, Indiana University of Pennsylvania dropped its American Indian mascot, which had been named “Cherokee.” The university decided at that time to retain its “Indians” nickname.

“As president, I am particularly sensitive to the impact that the sanctions prohibiting postseason hosting of tournaments and lack of home field advantage poses for our student-athletes and our athletic program,” Atwater said.

The NCAA policy, which goes into effect Feb. 1, bans schools with American Indian mascots, logos, or nicknames from hosting NCAA-sanctioned postseason competitions. It also prohibits those schools from displaying their American Indian imagery at any postseason event they participate in.