The NCAA's sweeping ruling about team names is turning up some interesting cases, and one wonders whether its a harbinger of broader name changes.
For those who may not have seen it, the NCAA has ruled that any school who's team name or mascot is an ethnic group or individual will not be allowed to participate in post-season tournaments after Feb '06. In general, this is aimed at teams with Native American names and mascots. An appeals process has been put into place, and looking at the individual cases is useful.
The first school to win an appeal is Florida State University, home of the Seminoles. The school has worked closely with the Florida Seminole tribe for years, and they have been in support of FSU's use of the name and the mascot, Chief Osceola, who's living ancestors have also given their public support. There's plenty of people angry at the NCAA decision to let FSU continue to be the 'Noles, but so far it looks like that's the decision. From my perspective, it was probably worth looking into the school's use of the name, and the right decision was made based on the data I've seen.
This is all interesting, but the next appeal is more intriguing. The University of Illinois uses the name "Illini" as the team name. Since Illini means "members of the Illinois tribe", it is basically a derivative of the state name, which happens, like many states, to be the name of a Native American tribe. Now if Illinois is forced to drop the team name, it doesn't take a visionary to see where the people who are the politically correct force behind these changes will turn next.
So lets hope this idea has run its course, and, as in the case of FSU, rational thinking will prevail. If not, we may have some exciting new state naming contests in the near future!