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NCAA bans Indian mascots, nicknames from postseason
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The University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname has generated controversy for years. UND officials say they're not surprised by the NCAA decision. (University of North Dakota)
The NCAA is banning the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments. But the colleigate sports governing body did not prohibit them otherwise. The NCAA's Executive Committee decided this week that it doesn't have the authority to bar individual schools use of of Indian mascots. Locally the announcement is expected to have the most impact at the University of North Dakota, home of the Fighting Sioux.

Grand Forks, ND — NCAA Executive Committee Chairman Walter Harrison says nicknames or mascots deemed "hostile or abusive" would not be allowed by teams on their uniforms or other clothing at any NCAA tournament after February 1, 2006. Harrison did not reveal the guidelines used to decide which logos and nicknames are "hostile or abusive."

Harrison says the NCAA's Executive Committee decided this week the organization does not have the authority to bar Indian mascots by individual schools. But the NCAA can take action to persuade schools to ban the offensive names.

"Institutions with hostile or abusive racial, ethnic, national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery will be prohibited from hosting any NCAA any national championship competition," he said.

Harrison says teams that don't agree with the report have until February 1 to comment on or protest the decision.

"Though I would say we gave full consideration to this recommendations came from a sub-committee of the Executive Committee and have been fully vetted for several years, we believe this to be a solid and well-researched report with very clear guidelines," he said.

The University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname has generated controversy for years. UND officials say they're not surprised by the NCAA decision.

University representive Phil Harmeson says the action is similar to an earlier move regarding states that display the confederate battle flag. Harmeson says the school will comply with the NCAA's decision.

"If one wishes to remain a member of the NCAA, one would comply, so the institution will do whatever is necessary going forward to do whatever is necessary for the NCAA," he said.

Harmeson says school officials are still studying the NCAA's directive. UND's ice hockey facility, the Ralph Engelstad Arena, is covered with hundreds of representations of the Fighting Sioux logo, including a huge stained-glass window and marble-inlayed floors.

Strict observation of the NCAA directive would require each one to be covered, for any NCAA tournament game. UND's Phil Harmenson says for regular conference play, UND teams will be able to use the logo and nickname.

The announcement was well received by Native American activist Leigh Jeannotte, the director of Native American programs at UND.

"To me it makes sense. In this day and age the sensitivity towards American Indians should be shown in a much better light and I think the actions that the NCAA has taken are right on line," according to Jeannotte.

Jeanotte says it's time for school officials to do "the right and honorable thing and get rid of the offensive nickname." The NCAA announcement ends several years of study.

At least 18 schools have mascots the NCAA deem "hostile or abusive," including Florida State's Seminole and Illinois' Illini.

Not all schools with Indian-related nicknames are on that list. NCAA officials said some schools using the Warrior nickname do not use Indian symbols and would not be affected.

A number of schools have already changed names in anticipation of the new rule. For example, St. John's in New York went from Redmen to Red Storm and Marquette from Warriors to Golden Eagles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.