URBANA, Ill. - The University of Illinois will retire its 81-year-old American Indian mascot, Chief Illiniwek, on Wednesday after the last men's home basketball game of the season.
In 2005, the NCAA determined that the buckskin-clad Illiniwek was an offensive use of American Indian imagery and barred the university from being the host for postseason events. American Indian groups and others complained for years that the mascot, used since 1926, is demeaning. Supporters of the mascot say it honors the contributions of American Indians to Illinois.
Illinois still will be able to use the name Illini because it's short for Illinois, and the school can use the term Fighting Illini, because it's considered a reference to the team's competitive spirit, school officials said. It is unclear if the school will get a new mascot.
School officials said they received a letter from the NCAA on Thursday that said the school would no longer be banned from holding postseason events if it drops the mascot and related American Indian imagery.
Also yesterday, a Champaign County Circuit Court judge rejected two students' request for a court order banning the university from "capitulating to the NCAA by announcing the retirement of Chief Illiniwek."