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The nickname police

The NCAA shouldn't stop at Native American monikers

Posted: Monday August 29, 2005 5:47PM; Updated: Tuesday September 6, 2005 12:17PM
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Chief Osceola
Florida State was allowed to keep Chief Osceola as its mascot, despite the ban initially opposed by the NCAA.

One size never fits all, as knows anyone who's ever tried on one of those caps with the silly adjustable clip in the back. Which is why it was clear from the moment the NCAA announced its ban on Native American nicknames and mascots from postseason play that the edict wouldn't stand for long.

Sure enough, only days later, the NCAA pulled Florida State from the banned list after the Seminole Tribe of Florida reaffirmed its support of the school's use of its tribal name and its mascot, Chief Osceola.

In the end, the NCAA probably got it right. I've long harbored a general disgust for the use (or is it abuse?) of American Indian mascots by sports teams. My stomach turns when fans in Atlanta start doing the "tomahawk" chop. And each time I see Chief Wahoo, the grinnin' caricature that represents the Cleveland Indians, my mind's eye sees big-lipped black-face images from the Steppin' Fetchit era.

The NCAA took a half-step in the right direction by banning the use of Native American names and mascots during the postseason, though they should have been bold enough to issue an outright ban. I guess it's all right to parade around in red-face, whooping like kids playing Cowboys and Indians, as long as it's only in front of your own fans and not the national TV audiences drawn to bowls and tournaments.

The Seminoles' case was not only bolstered by support from the Florida tribe, but also by the school's actions away from the games. Last year, FSU began awarding scholarships covering 80 percent of tuition to students recruited from reservations, and are reportedly considering establishing ties to a nearby Seminole charter school.

Most of the other 17 institutions affected by the ban may not be so charmed. Nor should they be. All Braves, Indians, Redmen (!), Warriors (rainbow or otherwise) and the goshforsaken Southeastern Oklahoma State Savages should all just dismount their high horses and find another mascot to rouse their faithful. Slowly, but oh-so-thankfully, the era of the late Chief Knock-a-Homa and his equally offensive offspring is dying.

If the Chippewas of Central Michigan State, the Mississippi College Choctaws and North Dakota Sioux can make a claim as equally unique and compelling as the Florida State Seminoles, then they, too, should be released from the ban.

But while the NCAA is at this business of whacking whack nicknames, they should consider banning the following:

Anchormen (Puget Sound Christian College, Rhode Island College): I'm thinking guys with hair and makeup stylists aren't the most rousing images.

Banana Slugs (UC-Santa Cruz), Dirtbags (Cal State-Long Beach): While they're at it, the NCAA should just ban all nicknames conjured in smoke-filled rooms in California during the '60s.

Bears, Bulldogs, Cougars, Crusaders, Eagles, Golden (Fill in the Blanks), Knights, Lions (Can we just say any of the Wizard of Oz trio?), Panthers, Pioneers, Saints, Spartans, Trojans: No need to ban them. Just issue a moratorium because there are simply too many teams with these names!

Blue (Wellesley), Brown and White (Lehigh), Cardinal (Stanford), Purple Pride (Nyack College): Institutions of higher learning should be more creative than rooting for a color.

Blue Hose (Presbyterian College): Whether the garden variety or the more salacious ones, does either provide inspiring imagery?

Boxers (Pacific U.): See Banana Slugs, Dirtbags, etc.

Bullets (Gettysburg): Just to mess with the NRA.

Delta Devils (Mississippi Valley State), Demon Deacons (Wake Forest), Demons (David N. Myers, Northwestern State): Ain't the Devil strong enough without us cheering him on?

Ephs (Williams College [Mass.]): What are they?

Geoducks (Evergreen State): I'm told it's pronounced GOO-ee-ducks, not JEE-oh-ducks). Any nickname that comes with a pronunciation guide should be banned.

Gorlocks (Webster), Hoyas (DeVry, Georgetown), Nads (Rhode Island School of Design), Zias (Eastern New Mexico): See "Ephs."

Hurricanes (Georgia Southwestern State, U of Houston-Clear Lake, U of Miami), Prairie Fire (Knox), Tornado (King) and Tornadoes (Brevard, Concordia, Talladega): Natural disasters kill people and animals, destroy property and raise my insurance rates.

Javelinas (Texas A&M, Kingsville), Jennies (Central Missouri State) and Jimmies (Jamestown): Go Jimmies?! I don't think so.

Little Giants (Wabash): Can we all say, OxyMORON?!

Lord Jeffs (Amherst), Wonder Boys (Arkansas Tech): See "Anchormen."

Thorobreds (Kentucky State): Hey guys, it's spelled THOROUGHBREDS.

Vandals (Idaho): Now there's a student-athlete image to be celebrated.