The University announced last week that it is upholding its policy that prohibits the Gophers from playing the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in all sports except hockey, despite the recent settlement made by UND with the NCAA concerning its use of an American Indian as a mascot.
The policy was instituted in 2003, when the University discouraged the Gophers from playing any school whose mascot portrayed American Indian ethnicity. The University is taking a strong stance in this particular case, riding the current wave of political correctness of the NCAA. In 2005, the NCAA prohibited the display of “hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery.”
The University is quick to claim the moral high ground with UND, but their approach is more of a convenient PR stunt. The policy, in essence, is obsolete in its original intentions. The Sioux only recently moved all of their athletic teams to Division I status. Until 2006, they were all Division II, save men’s and women’s hockey. The ban didn’t affect regular season play of any University sports teams, given the fact that all Gopher sports compete at the Division I level. Most athletics, besides hockey, football and basketball, are weak money makers in comparison. The University policy seeks to point a finger of condemnation at UND, except where it matters the most, the hockey rivalry.
It’s well known that a Sioux and Gopher hockey game will most likely sell out, attract media attention and make a pretty penny for both teams involved. If the University believes so strongly in the “hostile and abusive” nature of UND’s mascot, then they should stick to their guns and make a real statement. The fact that the University makes exceptions in its morality when money and attention is at stake underscores the hollow policy it instituted against the Sioux.
We believe that each mascot case should be looked at individually, as it is impossible to make a blanket statement that all mascots that represent ethnicity are offensive. But the University’s too convenient exception to its own policy shows their real concern to be the purse, not the principle.