INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA said Friday that approval from American Indian tribes would be a primary factor in deciding appeals from schools that want to use Native American nicknames and mascots in postseason play.
The first review is scheduled to start next week.
Two weeks ago, the NCAA announced that it would ban the use of American Indian imagery and nicknames by school representatives at postseason tournaments starting in February. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders will also be barred from using Indian images on their uniforms beginning in 2008.
The decision also prohibits schools with American Indian mascots from hosting future NCAA postseason events. Schools that have already been awarded postseason tournaments would have to cover any Indian depictions in their sports venues.
Major college football will not be affected because there is no official NCAA tournament.
All appeals will go through a staff committee chaired by Bernard Franklin, the NCAA’s senior vice president for governance and membership. Decisions could then be reviewed by the NCAA’s executive committee.
“This is a complex issue and the circumstances surrounding each institution’s use of Native American mascots and imagery is different,” Franklin said in a written statement. “Each review will be considered on the unique aspects and circumstances as it relates to the specific use and practice at that college or university.”
One factor will be whether documentation exists from a “namesake” tribe that has approved use of Indian images or nicknames.
The most outspoken university officials have been at Florida State, which uses the nickname Seminoles and has already threatened a lawsuit. The Seminole Tribe of Florida announced in June it supported the use of its tribal name by Florida State. And the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma recently stated that it does not condemn Florida State for its use of the Seminole nickname.
“We’re encouraged by the executive board’s decision to set up the administration of the appeal process,” Florida State President T.K. Wetherell said. “We don’t think we ever should have been on a list, but we’re certainly encouraged to where we are compared to where we’ve been.”
NCAA officials said Florida State was put on the list because other Seminole tribes were opposed.
“We assume, based on what Bernard Franklin told (FSU athletic director) Dave Hart and what we’ve read in the press release ... they will name some administrators to hear that (appeal),” Wetherell said. “I don’t know what that process entails, but clearly they’re looking at relationships that exist. That certainly works in our favor.”
At least 18 schools face sanctions.
“It is vitally important that we maintain a balance between the interests of a particular Native American tribe and the NCAA’s responsibility to ensure an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity for all who attend and participate in our championships,” NCAA President Myles Brand said in a written statement.
“We recognize that there are many points of view associated with this issue and we also know that some Native American groups support the use of mascots and imagery and some do not; that is why we will pay particular attention to special circumstances associated with each institution.”
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