University says Chief’s fate still undecided

By Staff Report

University officials say a newspaper report detailing the school’s plans for Chief Illiniwek’s fate is inaccurate.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday that the University’s Board of Trustees plans to transfer ownership of the 80-year-old symbol to a group of alumni who portrayed the Chief while students at Illinois.

While The Daily Illini confirmed Thursday that the University has met with former Chiefs to discuss the future of the symbol, sources say no definite decisions have been made about Illiniwek’s fate. And, the sources say, there are no certain plans for the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics to relinquish control of the Chief or his performances.

“No decisions have been made,” University spokesman Tom Hardy told The Daily Illini On-Air. “No tradition has been changed.”

Illiniwek has performed at several home volleyball games this season, and will appear at Saturday’s football home opener against Eastern Illinois. Athletic department officials say he is expected to appear at each home basketball game through the 2005-06 season.

While the Sun-Times reported that plans are set to transfer ownership to a group called the “Council of Chiefs,” The Daily Illini confirmed that this is not an organized group, but rather an informal nickname for a group of former Chiefs. Sources said that moving Illiniwek out of University athletics is one of many options considered since the NCAA ruled the Chief “hostile and abusive.”

“I don’t know that there is anything called the so-called council of Chiefs,” Hardy said. “I know that some former Chiefs have expressed interest to University leadership in how they might be able to play a role in preserving the tradition and heritage. I think it would be premature to say that there have been any kind of intense negotiations or anything like that.”

On Aug. 5, 2005, the NCAA placed Illinois on a list of schools using American Indian imagery the NCAA deemed offensive. The University spent nine months appealing the decision, but lost all appeals. Until the University discontinues the use of the Illiniwek symbol, it will not be allowed to host any NCAA-sponsored postseason competitions.