Newberry College teams’ nickname banned
By PATRICK OBLEY - firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to comply with an NCAA mandate barring the use of nonapproved Native American nicknames, the Newberry College board of trustees voted last weekend to strike the nickname for all of its sports teams, but chose not to replace it at this point.
“I guess you can call us the Big Red Ns,” trustee Billy Walker said Tuesday.
If the school had not complied with the directive to rid itself of the nickname, the NCAA would have banned the school from playing host to postseason events. In addition, the school’s teams would have had to place duct tape over “Indians” lettering on jerseys, uniforms and all other related equipment.
“We’re bowing to the NCAA’s ridiculous ruling,” said Chuck Wendt, Newberry College’s vice president. “We had no chance. We had no choice. The only reason we did it was for the kids.”
A red block form of the letter “N” will stand as the school’s logo until a new nickname can be agreed upon. The school had been prepared for that contingency. When a new football playing surface was installed at Setzler Field, the word “Newberry” was stenciled onto both end zones. A large “N” was placed at midfield where an arrowhead would have gone.
“The NCAA has a gun to our head, and it’s not fair to our kids,” Walker said. “What the deal is, is our kids can’t compete on a fair basis if we keep the nickname. It’s political correctness gone amok.”
When the NCAA originally mandated the ban of Native American mascots and nicknames in 2005, a vast majority of schools either complied or sought permission from tribes to continue use.
As the years passed, three schools remained defiant. The University of North Dakota sued the NCAA to keep its “Fighting Sioux” nickname name despite the disapproval of the various Sioux tribal bands.
Alcorn State (Braves) and Newberry took a wait-and-see approach and notified the NCAA they would study the issue. In both instances, the schools wanted to see how North Dakota’s case turned out.
“It’s litigation that has cost $2 million,” Walker said. “We can’t spend $2 million to do that.”
North Dakota’s suit is pending.
Newberry’s original nickname was based on the color of the uniform the baseball team wore. When the team was established early in the 20th century, it had no money for uniforms. Another local team donated its red uniforms to the school, leading opposing teams to call Newberry’s players “Red Men.”
The nickname evolved from there.
Bob Williams, the NCAA’s managing director of public relations, welcomed Newberry’s decision.
“There’s been communication back and forth,” he said. “Newberry actually sent us a memo basically saying they intended to change their nickname by the fall of 2008. They were one of several institutions that felt strongly that they should keep their name.”
Walker and Wendt said the school will spend the next year or two studying the issue to determine whether to come up with a new name or possibly reinstate the Indians. One avenue they are exploring is gaining approval from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation, whose ancestral territory the college is situated on.
Eastern Band chief Michelle Hicks performed the ceremonial coin toss before Newberry’s final home football game last season, and a Cherokee Nation delegation will visit the campus next month.
“We respect what the NCAA has to say,” Walker said. “We’re going to try and do the right thing, but a lot of people are livid. There are people buried in cemeteries here with Indian heads on their gravestones. It’s tough. It would seem like the NCAA would have better things to do instead of caring about who’s wearing what.”
If the school chose to return to its original “Red Men” nickname, Williams said the NCAA would take it under consideration. There is a precedent for the nickname’s use. Recently, Carthage (Wis.) College changed its nickname from “Redmen” to “Red Men” to comply with the NCAA.