And then there were 15.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Friday dropped Central Michigan University and the University of Utah from its list of institutions deemed to have "hostile and abusive" Native American nicknames and therefore restricted from participating in NCAA championships. The decision follows by 10 days a similar ruling that took Florida State off the original list of 18, which was announced August 5.
Like Florida State before it, the NCAA said, Central Michigan (whose teams are known as the Chippewas) and Utah (the Utes) were able to show on appeal that they have the support of the namesake tribes. "The NCAA staff review committee noted the relationship between the universities and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and the Northern Ute Indian Tribe, respectively, as a significant factor," said Bernard Franklin, the NCAA's vice president for governance and membership.
Officials from the two institutions expressed their satisfaction at the NCAA's reversal. “The university is pleased by the NCAA’s decision to remove CMU from the list of universities deemed to be hostile and abusive in the use of the Chippewa nickname,” Central Michigan's president, Michael Rao, said in a news release. “CMU cherishes its ongoing relationship with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The university appreciates the NCAA’s timely response to its appeal and the university is pleased to put this chapter behind it."
Utah's president, Michael K. Young, said that its appeal, which it sent to the NCAA on Wednesday, was accompanied by a letter in which leaders of the Northern Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee said they were "proud of the Ute name and the culture it represents. Indeed, the Ute name and culture are the predicates of our State’s name: Utah.” Young himself said: “The university has a good, long standing relationship with the Ute Tribe. We value their support and will work closely with the Tribe to ensure that the Ute name continues to be used in an honorable and respectful manner.”
Since the NCAA unveiled its policy on Native American imagery a month ago, which barred institutions with mascots and names deemed "hostile and abusive" from playing host to NCAA championships and from otherwise displaying those icons and names at NCAA-sponsored events, critics have questioned the four-year process the NCAA used for crafting the policy and the original list of 18 (the NCAA has yet to make an initial determination about whether one other institution, the College of William and Mary, belongs on the list for its use of the "Tribe" name).
Several colleges on the original list complained that the NCAA had ignored evidence they had put forward in the NCAA's initial review about their longstanding ties to Indian tribes and those tribes' support for their use of the names and imagery. Officials at some of the colleges said privately that the NCAA could have saved itself a significant public opinion pounding if it had paid more attention to the tribal views originally.
Bob Williams, the NCAA's managing director of public and media relations, said in an interview Friday that the NCAA's appeals process, which it announced two weeks after it unveiled the original policy, had been designed to place more emphasis on the tribes' opinions. "Although the tribal input certainly was a factor in the original review, it is now a primary factor" in the appeals," Williams said.
He also said that in each of the three cases on which the NCAA has reversed itself so far, there were aspects and information that we found out after, that we didn't have before, about tribal support."
Only one other institution, the University of North Dakota, whose teams are known as the Fighting Sioux, has appealed the NCAA's decision so far. But while North Dakota has said it has support from at least some of the branches of the Sioux tribe, one of them, the Spirit Lake Sioux, reportedly voted last week to oppose the university's continued use of the name.
Most of the other colleges on the list have names like Indians or Braves or Warriors, for which it seems unlikely they will be able to show support from a particular tribe.