April 28, 2006
NCAA Denies North Dakota Nickname Appeal

By Mike Eidelbes

The NCAA Executive Committee today denied the appeals of the University of North Dakota and two other universities to retain their use of Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery at NCAA-sanctioned postseason events.

According to an NCAA release, the panel determined that Native American references used by North Dakota, the University of Illinois and Indiana University of Pennsylvania "create hostile or abusive environments inconsistent with the NCAA constitution and inconsistent with the NCAA commitment to diversity, respect and sportsmanship." The decision doesn't force North Dakota, the University of Illinois and Indiana University of Pennsylvania to change its nicknames, but the schools won't be allowed to participate in NCAA championships if Native American references appear on the team's uniforms or other items associated with the university.

North Dakota and Indiana are also prohibited from hosting NCAA championship events -- Illinois was spared this sanction after successfully lobbying in November that its "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" referred to the state of Illinois and not a Native American group. North Dakota hosted this year's NCAA hockey West Regional at Ralph Engelstad Arena, attracting 22,654 fans to Grand Forks, a two-day attendance record for regional play.

According to Friday's Grand Forks Herald, UND president Charles Kupchella sent a letter to the NCAA this week stating the university had the support of the state's Sioux tribes to continue using the nickname. However, the chairman of one of the tribes refuted that claim and told the newspaper his band was behind the NCAA's effort.

Four schools, including Florida State University and the University of Utah, have been excepted from the NCAA effort regarding Native American nicknames because they've received approval from the Seminole and Ute tribes to continue using the names.