URBANA – The University of Illinois could have to undergo yet another analysis of Chief Illiniwek and its effect on the campus, under recommendations recently approved by the NCAA.
The organization's executive committee approved a recommendation asking schools with American Indian mascots, nicknames or logos to complete a "self-analysis" to determine if the mascot, nickname or logo can be viewed as offensive.
The UI has already spent countless hours on the Chief Illiniwek controversy.
The campus held a two-day dialogue in spring 2000, presided over by former Cook County Circuit Judge Louis B. Garippo, to hear various views on the issue. Then the UI Board of Trustees appointed former Trustee Roger Plummer to explore options for resolving the controversy.
Plummer issued a report in March 2002 concluding there can be no compromise on the issue, but recommending the UI take steps to either retire the Chief in a way that recognizes its importance to the campus or make changes to make the symbol less offensive.
"We've done an exhaustive (analysis), we think," said UI spokesman Bill Murphy. "We think the Plummer report is an exhaustive self-study and we think a good one. Whether it will be responsive to what they're asking for, we won't know until we know what they're asking for, which won't be until September of next year."
Jeff Howard, a spokesman for the NCAA, said the organization might consider Plummer's report sufficient to fulfill its request for a self-analysis.
"I think that could be looked at, as long as the criteria that is developed is also criteria that the university actually went through," Howard said.
He said the analyses are another way for the NCAA to gather information about its members' use of American Indian mascots or nicknames, as well as a way for schools to gauge how their constituents feel about the images.
The NCAA will develop self-analysis materials, which the executive committee will review in August 2004. If approved, they'll be distributed to NCAA institutions in September 2004, and the schools must complete the self-analysis by Aug. 1, 2005.
The executive committee also asked NCAA conferences with schools using American Indian symbols to review their policies regarding contests on the campuses of the schools and awarding championships to those schools.
Finally, it endorsed the following actions:
– Developing a checklist for affected schools to use in their self-analysis.
– Continuing to monitor the use of mascots, nicknames, logos and behaviors pertaining to the issue.
– Establishing criteria for NCAA championship sites and venues that include review of the visibility of American Indian mascots, logos and symbols.
– Establishing criteria to ensure schools participating in NCAA championships adhere to the NCAA's principles of student-athlete welfare, cultural and gender diversity, sportsmanship and nondiscrimination.
The executive committee did not approve a recommendation that would have required elimination of all references to American Indian mascot names, nicknames and logos in NCAA publications and announcements.
Murphy said UI and athletic department officials have not yet talked with the NCAA about the recommendations. But he questioned what the conference review could mean for the UI.
"When they are asking not only institutions to do a self-analysis, but also asking conferences to do a self-analysis and to review conference policies on awarding championships ... does that mean they wouldn't allow championships to institutions who used (American Indian mascots)?" Murphy asked.
Howard said the request for a conference review is a way for them to look at their policies and make choices about championship events and any possible restrictions, rather than the NCAA.
"If the analysis from the individual school is, 'We may have a problem' or 'We want look at this a little bit further,' it should go to the conference as well, as they're looking to make their decisions about what institutions will host championships," he said.
The executive committee's actions were based on recommendations from a report issued last year by the NCAA's Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee.
"My take on that report is that it does represent a strong point of view (in opposition to such mascots)," Murphy said.
The report suggested possible courses of action for the NCAA, which included restricting championship opportunities for schools with American Indian mascots; prohibiting those schools from bringing mascots, cheerleaders, bands or displaying certain logos at championship competition sites; or forbidding those schools from hosting championships. However, the committee did not make a recommendation that such policies be adopted.
After reviewing the minority opportunity committee's report, the NCAA's Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet issued a statement in February saying access to or the location of championship events should not be restricted because of issues related to the use of American Indian mascots or images.
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