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Athletics scheduling garners criticism
The men's basketball team may play the University of Illinois,
but law student Frank Silva says the school's mascot is offensive

By Chuck Slothower
Oregon Daily Emerald News Reporter
February 27, 2004

A controversy is brewing between University officials and individuals in the community regarding the men's basketball team's reported plans to play the University of Illinois. Some feel the University of Illinois' nickname and its mascot are offensive.

The hubbub constitutes the re-emergence on campus of the American Indian mascots issue. Law student Frank Silva and others presented University President Dave Frohnmayer with a resolution in the summer of 2002 asking the University to refrain from scheduling athletic contests with teams that use American Indian names and imagery without tribal oversight.

Silva said the resolution was signed by 240 law students, 25 law professors and current and former law school deans.

"(Frohnmayer) agreed to take it into consideration with a wink and a nod that it's not going to be an issue," Silva said.

University of Oregon Executive Assistant President Dave Hubin said Frohnmayer did not implicitly consent to refrain from scheduling games against teams that use American Indian mascots.

"No, I think that there was a commitment that was retained to work within the NCAA," Hubin said, adding that the NCAA "is making significant progress in addressing this."

The Register-Guard reported Feb. 10 that Oregon has reached an agreement to play Illinois in December in Chicago. In exchange, Illinois is slated to be Oregon's opponent for the 2005-06 season's Papé Jam in Portland.

Assistant Athletics Director for Media Services Dave Williford declined to confirm that Oregon will play Illinois, saying the schedule had not been finalized.

However, Athletics Director Bill Moos said, "We've worked very hard to schedule intersectional games against Big Ten (Conference) teams, and Illinois is one of them."

Hubin said Illinois would be an "esteemed" opponent.

"We're very proud to play Big Ten (Conference) schools because they line up with the (Pacific-10 Conference) athletically, academically and in so many other ways," he said.

But for people such as Silva, "proud" doesn't come to mind when thinking about the game.

"We would prefer for the University to rescind the contract (with Illinois), quietly," Silva said. "We don't want to make an issue. We all (have) better things to do."

Silva called Illinois' mascot, which the school has used since 1926, "the most egregious Native American mascot." Others say Oregon shouldn't play Illinois because its mascot is particularly offensive.

"It's about this University's commitment to diversity and honoring diversity," Silva said.

"It's about the University saying it honors people," journalism Professor Debra Merskin added.

Silva said he would like to avoid conflict with University administrators, but he is ready to confront them if the Illinois games proceed.

"I do anticipate activities in the activist community, and they could be pretty broad," he said. "I (have) a year to think about what to do about it."

Hubin said he is "very aware of the objections" raised by local mascot opponents, but Hubin said he believes the University is not the appropriate place to address the issue.

"The proper forum is the NCAA," Hubin said. "They're dealing with this on a national level."

The NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee, led by Chairman Eugene Marshall, Jr., is reviewing the use of American Indian mascots.

"The committee is in the process of putting together a checkpoint list to send out to the ... colleges and universities that use Native American mascots to see if their mascot is offensive, not only to themselves, but to other colleges and universities and their communities," Marshall said.

Marshall, who is the athletics director at Ramapo College in New Jersey, said he expects schools to complete the survey and turn in the results to the committee by September. He said that while some people oppose the use of American Indian mascots and some support it, the committee is attempting to find a solution that is satisfactory for both.

"What we're trying to do is come to an agreement to respect each other's beliefs," Marshall said.

Frohnmayer is not on the committee but is aware of its work, Hubin said. He added that it is unrealistic to expect the University to push the issue while the NCAA is working on it.

"While the issue is being actively considered by the NCAA, I don't think a unilateral action on our part would be appropriate," Hubin said. "Because there is action on the national scene, that's where we believe it should be resolved."