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Minnesota says no to UND

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Any future exception to the University of Minnesota policy against playing teams with American Indian nicknames shouldn't be based strictly on which teams the NCAA considers "hostile and abusive," members of that school's Advisory Committee on Athletics said Tuesday.

That means the committee may not recommend scheduling games against University of North Dakota even if the school wins its lawsuit against the NCAA or reaches a compromise with the association that allows UND to retain some version of its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said Monday his school will not play UND in any sports except hockey, because both schools are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

A University of Minnesota policy discouraging nonconference games against teams with American Indian mascots has been in place since 2003, Maturi said, but that policy was not strictly enforced.

He said he planned to ask the advisory committee to loosen the policy at a Nov. 2 meeting. Instead, the committee asked him to enforce the policy more strictly.

UND is suing the NCAA over a mandate barring the team from displaying its logo during postseason play. If UND mends its relationship with the NCAA, Maturi said he will ask the advisory committee for permission to schedule UND teams.

"If the NCAA determines UND is in compliance with their wishes," Maturi said, "I'd go back to the committee and ask permission to go forward. But not until that happens."

But committee members said Tuesday an NCAA sanction or a winning verdict in a lawsuit may not be enough to win their approval.

Committee member Linda Brady said a pass by the NCAA would mean very little to her. Several schools, including the Central Michigan University Chippewas and the Florida State University Seminoles, gained the NCAA's sanction after a namesake tribe's leadership council approved the nickname. Brady said the views of a tribal council don't always reflect the majority opinion.

Brady is a nutrition professor who has served on the committee since 2000.

"If it's offensive to one person in a group, it's offensive," she said.

The Advisory Committee on Athletics makes recommendations to Maturi on intercollegiate and policy issues, Brady said, but has no direct authority.

"Like the name says, we're advisory," she said. "We advise Joel, and because it's advisory he doesn't have to listen to us."

Another committee member, child development professor Maria Sera, agreed with Brady's argument.

"In my personal opinion, I think that's discriminatory, too. Some schools have the money to buy off certain influential tribe members to keep their names and others have to change," Sera said. "I would apply (the policy) across the board. Many Native Americans find (American Indian logos) very offensive. I see no need to offend people for something so minor."

Committee member Steven McCarthy said he would consider the NCAA's decision to remove a team from the "hostile and abusive" list, but would want to look more deeply into other issues before making a recommendation to schedule that school.

McCarthy is a professor of child psychology who has served on the advisory committee for seven years. He said he'd want to investigate the feelings of tribal members and students as well as actions the school had taken to deal with the controversy.

Committee member S. Douglas Olson said the question of playing teams with American Indian mascots and logos is complex and has not been explored deeply enough by the committee. He said there was not extended discussion before the decision was reached to interpret the policy more strictly.

Marks is a reporter for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper