It has been five years since the NCAA enacted a policy that essentially prohibits member institutions from using Native American mascots and logos. This policy supposedly affected many schools including well-known ones like the Florida State Seminoles, Utah Utes, and Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois even got rid of Chief Illiniwek, their long-time mascot.
The policy also stated that (since this is the NCAA and they have no real teeth) this rule’s only real punishments are that any school violating the policy can’t host NCAA championship-related events and will have to cover up their logos if they are Native American-related. It also doesn’t apply to college football at all since the NCAA doesn’t sponsor a championship. Heaven forbid anyone anger the golden goose.
Yet now, the NCAA is reinforcing its policy and threatening real sanctions against, no, not Florida State. The Seminoles are far too powerful among member institutions and even have the support of the actual Seminoles of northern Florida. No, instead of grabbing a tiger by the tail, as it were, the NCAA needs a patsy: the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
UND wants to join the Big Sky conference, but the conference is somewhat concerned because of UND’s nickname. The NCAA has threatened sanctions if UND isn’t in compliance with the rule by August 15. At issue is North Dakota’s Indian-head logo and obviously their nickname as well.
I’d just like to thank the NCAA for splitting the following hair: they chose not to punish EVERY institution that has a Native American mascot/logo. For example, then-President Myles Brand said North Carolina-Pembroke wasn’t violating the rule because they had a large percentage of Native American students. San Diego State was deemed to not have any references to Native American culture within their athletic department, so they were excused as well. It also helps that the Aztecs lived mostly in what is now Mexico, I suppose.
Florida State also just finished hosting a super-regional in college baseball (which they lost to Texas A&M), so I guess the NCAA doesn’t care THAT much about enforcing this rule.
What the NCAA is doing is choosing a smaller, less-powerful school to bully with this rule rather than take on a power school like Florida State or even a popular one like Utah. This is absolutely the worst thing they could do when it comes to rules enforcement. If they are so willing to bend and selectively enforce a policy they say they care deeply about, how is anyone supposed to trust them to handle the big situations like Ohio State and North Carolina effectively? Worse, the NCAA’s ability to handle large scandals is already questionable because of the way they dealt with USC.
Given the recent scandals at major schools involving multiple sports, the NCAA has shown their oversight mechanism is woefully inadequate even though they try to make a big show of caring when a program is clearly cheating. If the NCAA actually cared about preventing things like the Ohio State scandal or Cecil Newton’s entrepreneurial bent, they wouldn’t let the schools police themselves with their own compliance departments. The inmates running the asylum is proof in and of itself that the NCAA has never taken enforcement seriously enough to eliminate the things they claim to be against.
Aside from that, the fact that they chose to single out some schools with Native American logos and not other equally ridiculous mascots. The NCAA seems to have a big problem with the Fighting Sioux and their logo, but not the Fighting Irish and their insanely stereotypical mascot. But, oh, because Notre Dame has an Irish Language and Literature program, it’s okay.
This is so absurd. If the Indian-head logo is inappropriate, and many are, then ask the schools to change it. But just because some one is called the “Sioux” or “Illini” or “Irish” doesn’t mean they’re automatically offensive.
There are some names that definitely are offensive, but the two or three worst are at the professional level: Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Chiefs. There are also some high schools with older, inappropriate Indian-related mascots and Catholic schools with Indian names which, if you know your history, is more than a little insensitive given the Church’s history of mistreating Native Americans.
But the mere fact that there have to be so many exceptions, so many gray areas, and that the NCAA can’t broadly enforce the rule even on schools clearly breaking it shows that it’s a badly-written rule. Would the NCAA ever consider fixing it so that there is less controversy? Hell no. This is the NCAA we’re talking about. They won’t even reconsider their ridiculous ruling on USC even though it has caused them nothing but trouble because they went easy on Auburn/Cecil Newton.
I say go with what has worked for Florida State and Central Michigan: if the people they’re using say it’s okay, then they can keep the mascot. All North Dakota should have to do is get approval from the real Sioux and it should be fine. If they can’t, maybe they can be the Fighting Persons of Western European Descent. I, as a person of Irish descent, am not okay with Notre Dame’s viciously racist mascot, especially because their name is in French. We hate the French and are therefore offended.
This is such a dumb controversy for so many reasons. Mostly because it’s so easily solved without some confusingly-worded rule, but also because the NCAA should be doing everything it can to look like it gives a crap about the biggest issues facing it today. While offensive mascots are in the top five, they should not be neglecting the top two or three just to take care of this. Once again, the bureaucratic nightmare that is the NCAA has made a boneheaded P.R. move when it really was just enforcing policy. If Mark Emmert really wants a legacy, he should stop being afraid of going after the biggest member schools which he oversees.