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Catawba wins appeal on mascot issue

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Catawba College can keep its Indians nickname without penalties, having shown it has the support of the Catawba Indian Nation.

But the NCAA ruled May 29 that the North Carolina school can use only the nickname “Catawba Indians” instead of “Indians.”

The decision means the North Carolina school will not be prohibited from hosting NCAA tournament games or using its nickname, mascot or imagery at NCAA championship events.

“Although the NCAA executive committee continues to believe the stereotyping of Native Americans is wrong, it recognizes that a Native American tribe is a distinct political community,” said NCAA senior vice president Bernard Franklin. “Therefore, [it] respects the authority of the tribe to permit universities and colleges to use its name and imagery.”

Franklin noted disagreements remained among tribal leaders whether the nickname Indians should be used at all. But in this case, Franklin said, the NCAA deferred to the Catawba tribe.

In mid-May, the NCAA added the College of William & Mary to a list of eight offenders because the logo of the Virginia school includes two feathers, even though it said the nickname “Tribe” was not necessarily abusive, hostile or offensive.

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In April, the NCAA denied an appeal by North Dakota to continue using its nickname “Fighting Sioux” even though one tribal leader sent a letter to the review committee in support of the nickname. Franklin noted then that another tribal letter sent a letter in opposition.

Five schools – Catawba, Central Michigan (“Chippewas”), Florida State (“Seminoles”), Mississippi College (“Choctaws”) and the University of Utah (“Utes”) – have won appeals after each showed it had the approval of local tribes to use the nickname.

Eight schools, including Illinois (“Fighting Illini”), still face sanctions. Four of the violators – Arkansas State, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, McMurry University in Texas, and Newberry (S.C.) College – use the nickname “Indians.” The other schools still on the list are Alcorn State (“Braves”), North Dakota and William & Mary.

Five schools have changed or agreed to change their nicknames: Carthage College in Wisconsin, Chowan College in North Carolina, the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Midwestern State in Texas and Southeastern Oklahoma State.

Southeastern in Durant, Okla., decided in January to change its Savages nickname to Savage Storm. Another Oklahoma school, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., was not on the NCAA list but decided to drop its nickname, “The Redmen,” after August 2007.

Bradley University in Illinois is the nation’s only school on a watch list since the NCAA’s new policy took effect last August. During the next five years, the NCAA will monitor the use of the school’s Braves nickname and its imagery.