Thus far, the game had not been an entertaining one to watch. At halftime, the score was 23-19, with Illinois over Michigan. Truth be told, the game itself was not even the main attraction on February 27, 2007. It had taken a back stage seat to the half-time show. This was the day Chief Illiniwek, the University of Illinois' mascot for eighty-one years, would be officially retired by the University due to pressure from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Dan Maloney, a graduate student at the school, strode to mid-court one final time. Dressed in a buckskin outfit and a feather headdress, the Chief performed for the last time. As Maloney left the court, tears started to well up in his eyes. A part of him had just died. Chief Illiniwek received a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the court. Straying from tradition, Maloney went back out to mid-court to acknowledge the fans. He then turned around and left the court, and Chief Illiniwek has not performed since.
Over the past six to seven years the NCAA has been cracking down on what they feel are controversial nicknames and mascots used by member universities. The University of Illinois was one of these schools. For twenty years the school had received complaints about the use of Chief Illiniwek. Finally the NCAA stepped in and ruled the use of Chief Illiniwek and the Chief Illiniwek mascot hostile and abusive. Illinois was to quit the use of the two or be banned from hosting postseason activities as long as continued the use of the mascot and symbol. After two years trying to fight it, Illinois finally gave in and retired the Chief and quit the use of the logo. On the day he was retired, students donned black shirts during the second half of the game in protest and mourning. February 27, 2007 will go down as one of the saddest days ever for Fighting Illini fans. This will be remembered as the day Illinois lost a tradition they had known for generations.
The University of Illinois is not the only school forced to abandon traditions. Many schools have been forced to abandon names and mascots their fans have known for years. Colleges and Universities should be able to keep their controversial Indian mascots and nicknames only if they first consult the tribe they would be representing, and as long they can maintain a good relationship with the affected tribe if they are allowed to keep their names and mascots.
Some schools were forced to remove both their mascot and nicknames. One of these schools was the University of North Dakota (UND). UND had used the Fighting Sioux nickname for eighty years. Dave Kolpack, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, outlines what UND is facing, “The state's flagship school [must undergo] a mandatory face-lift after the NCAA concluded the 80-year-old Fighting Sioux nickname was hostile and abusive.” (Kolpack 1). Despite an NCAA ruling, the university continued to use the name. As Kolpack says: “North Dakota was the last...