Monday, August 08, 2005

Opinion: NCAA Drops the Ball

The NCAA has long pretended that it has some kind of governing power over universities in the United States. It would, however, be prudent of the NCAA to realize that it is not in charge of our fine academic institutions. Colleges and universities do apply to be a part of the NCAA, but I do not believe that gives it the right to cry foul when it does not agree with a school's choice of mascot. If it didn't want schools with "racial/ethnic/national origin references in their intercollegiate athletics programs," it should have denied the application of those schools to its athletic association.

The argument may be made that most of the schools have had mascots that may be found offensive longer than ethnic sensitivity has been an issue. Fine. But what is it that makes the NCAA decide how to drop the hammer on this issue? The Univeristy of Utah has long had a great relationship with the Ute indian tribe. If there were some kind of dissent coming from the Ute tribe, I can see how the school would need to look at changing its mascot. That isn't the case, though. The NCAA has tried to make a blanket statement, but they have failed. Besides the Utes in Utah, the Seminoles in Florida have also had a working relationship with Florida State University. FSU has had some different challenges than Utah, but there is communication. Neither school arbitrarily uses the name of an indian tribe in disrespect. Of the original 33 schools put on alert by the NCAA, 18 were put on the final list as offenders of the new policy. Fourteen schools were excused from the ruling. I find the explanation from the NCAA to be lacking in substance. Upon examination of the 14 schools removed from scrutiny, eight of them use the name "Warriors" and three more use the name "Braves." The last was San Diego State and its use of the Aztec mascot. I looked at the websites of each of these fourteen schools. I still found various arrows, spears, and feathers in logos for a bunch of the teams. Where is the line? Why do the schools with relationships with their tribes get punished while teams that use vague references to indians get a nice wink from the NCAA?

The president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, Vernon Bellencourt said he feels the NCAA has gone halfway on the whole issue.

That being said, it would appear that this NCAA ruling has done one thing-- confuse everyone. Fans are confused and angry. Teams are confused. School administrators are confused. The native americans are confused. And I believe the NCAA has effectively confused itself. Proof? The NCAA's press release.

"[M]ember institutions are encouraged to educate their internal and external constituents on the understanding and awareness of the negative impact of hostile or abusive symbols, names and imagery, and to create a greater level of knowledge of Native American culture through outreach efforts and other means of communication."

Communication? How about talking to the Ute indian tribes about their feelings? Wouldn't that have been a good idea before kicking the Utes around in the national media for using a "hostile" mascot? Now, the Ute indians are being pegged as unable to fend for themselves. The school looks insensitive. And the NCAA looks like a bunch of selfish and spotlight-starved idiots. Fortunately, the Ute indians and the University of Utah have done nothing to be ashamed of. The NCAA, however, just found itself with more mud on the face.

I am an Aggie, but on this issue--GO UTES!

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