Football Gazette's Small College Football Blog

Don Hansen's Football Gazette Blog of information, comments, notes, and tidebits on Small College Football. NCAA 1-AA & Mid Major, Division II & Mid Major, Division III, NAIA, and NCCAA

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Red Zone for 10/3 and 9/27

THE RED ZONE By Craig Burroughs

Much has been written in the past few weeks about the NCAA Executive Committee's edict to 18 member schools to stop using American-Indian-related mascots and logos or be denied participation in NCAA playoffs and championship events. So much has been written, in fact, that I figure one more opinion can't hurt. I have mixed emotions about this subject; on the one hand, I'm in complete sympathy with the NCAA's goal of eliminating racial and ethnic bias, hostility and abuse at sanctioned sporting events. On the other hand, it seems rather heavy-handed (and not atypical of past NCAA actions) to name, and thereby accuse, a few institutions of being guilty of such behavior, especially when it is already clear that emotions instead of research spawned the decision. In fact, within four weeks of the ruling, four named institutions had already appealed and won waivers from the NCAA (Florida State, Utah, Central Michigan and San Diego State), leaving just three named schools who use the names of Indian tribes as team nicknames (the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Mississippi College Choctaws) subject to the new rules. In addition, there are 11 schools using the nicknames Indians, Braves or Tribe who have been ordered to modify their mascots and logos or suffer sanctions. As a resident of Illinois, I have been aware for at least 25 years of the dialogue going on at the U. in Urbana-Champaign about the continued use of the name Illini, and the famous Chief Illiniwek mascot, to represent Illinois' athletic teams. A vocal but very small percentage of students and faculty have been trying for many years to change Illinois' usage of the name and the mascot, and the majority have continued to believe that there is nothing "hostile or abusive" about either. In reality, Illini is an honorific based on the name of the largest native group living in the area now known as Illinois, so it's hardly abusive or insensitive for the major State University to name its teams after its own State. The same applies to the University of North Dakota, whose Fighting Sioux honor the French appellation for the largest group of Native Americans in their State. It would seem a little redundant to me to call UND teams the North Dakota Fighting Dakota, and UND has a stellar record of not only enrolling Native Americans, but also of setting up programs off-campus around the State of North Dakota to assist in their educational and economic betterment. While some Sioux (or Dakota, or Lakota, if you prefer), regard the name Sioux as an epithet and a misnomer applied to them by the voyageurs of 300 years ago, it is certainly no more of a misnomer than the term Indian itself. Columbus thought he had discovered a new ocean route to India in 1492, thus the inappropriate naming of North American natives as Indians. Maybe the NCAA should tell the U. S. Government that it should change the name of the Bureau of Indian Affairs or it will not allow any government employees to attend NCAA tourney games. The same goes for Braves and Tribe...these are both words that have meanings other than the narrow definitions the NCAA would like to apply. Haven't we all heard about the tribal chiefs in Afghanistan and Pakistan who may be protecting remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban? I come from a large family, and we often refer to ourselves as a tribe, which the dictionary does not discourage. And if we take the NCAA's ruling to its logical conclusion, should I as a person of mixed descent, including Scottish, Cornish, Irish and German forebears, be upset that Alma, Wooster, MacMurray and Maryville (all Fighting Scots) are poking fun at my highland heritage, or that Albion's Britons, Notre Dame's Fighting Irish and Alfred's Saxons are denigrating my ancestry. To me, and I think to a large majority of educated Americans, there is nothing any more hostile or abusive about using names associated with Native American cultures than there is in using the commonly accepted names linked to any other ethnic group. Thus I must come down on the side of institutional prerogative, not committee edict. The NCAA is, after all, an organization of schools of higher learning; wouldn't it be better to actually educate people to be sensitive and non-abusive, instead of singling out for special sanction a small group of members who are probably every bit as good at educating their students to be good citizens as any other NCAA schools. And whatever happened to "institutional control" and the hallowed First Amendment to the Constitution? I'm afraid you missed the target badly on this issue, NCAA Executive Committee. It's time you went back to school yourselves! And one more thing: Go Fighting Sioux!
* * * *
I call my 1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Station Wagon "JB" in memory of my wife Sandy's late father, who gave me the vehicle in August of 1998 when he purchased a new Jeep Grand Cherokee to haul his fishing boat around the wilds of Northern Wisconsin. JB had 151,000 miles on the odometer when I got it, and since that time I've added about 480,000 more, most of them good, honest football miles. Obviously, I've taken good care of JB, doing just what my late Father-in-Law told me to do, and he has taken good care of me. Thanks to regular oil changes and regular replacement of wearing parts, the engine still purrs and it still turns over nicely on its original starter. I did give it its first tuneup last month, at 625,000 miles, when it started getting a little rough and burning a bit of oil. The car is such a wonder now that I'm hoping to drive it 1,000,000 miles before retiring it to a museum. JB and I have gotten closer than ever this season. I told you in a previous column about how JB changed my plans when his air pump froze and shredded my serpentine belt coming out of Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis on Labor Day. That little message put me on track to see some football games that I had not planned to see but was glad I did. It also led to a much lengthened road trip that was supposed to end today (9-26) when I was finally planning to get back to Chicago after a 38-day absence. One of my schedule changes, prompted by wanting to keep JB's mileage under control this year as he ages gracefully was to stay in the Northeast this weekend instead of driving back to Texas, where this long road trip started. I spent the week in New Jersey after catching Army's sprint football game against Sacred Heart's JV, won by the larger Pioneers, 32-21. I also saw my first MLB games at Shea Stadium in New York and RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, before heading back to West Point for Friday night's Army-Iowa State thriller. Then JB took me north across the border to see my final unseen Canadian college team, the X-Men of Saint Francis Xavier University. Fortunately, it was an interlock game between the Quebec and Atlantic conferences, so I did not have to drive all the way to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, just five hours to Montreal. The night game was my first visit to the newest college stadium in Canada, at the University of Sherbrooke. The evening there was one of my most pleasant memories during the 16 seasons that I've now been hop-scotching across the continent in search of football. I was met by a school representative almost as soon as JB was parked, and he escorted me to the VIP lounge, not the pressbox. I was introduced to everybody who is anybody in Sherbrooke, including the mayor, and I was asked to do interviews for both the local paper and a Montreal paper, including posing for photographs. On top of all this, the food was much better than in the pressbox (better, in fact, than virtually any pressbox I've ever been in). The menu included mini-bagels with lox and cream cheese, cocktail-size chicken salad sandwiches, a cheese tray that included my personal fav, bleu cheese, and to top it all off, a glass of red wine (actually, I had two of those, since I was spending the night in Sherbrooke). After a restful night, JB headed me toward Ottawa, where I had planned to catch the only Canadian Juniors team east of Winnipeg that was not yet on my "seen" log. I was about 20 miles west of Montreal and less than 90 minutes from that day's goal, when JB changed my plans again. Rather, I should say, JB taught me a lesson about driving. I was cruising along at the limit thinking about how lucky I have been in all of these years of extensive driving not to have had the misfortune of a bad accident. I was also thinking about the chapter in my planned book which will discuss driving tips and how to avoid the crazies on the road. All of a sudden I realized that my right-turn exit for the freeway to Ottawa was looming just ahead and I'm in the wrong lane with a pickup truck just to my right. I made the decision to speed up to get around him before the exit, instead of tapping the brake and going behind him. It was a mistake that has me writing this column from a hotel room in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec, instead of my home in Chicago. But once again, JB came to my rescue...I was going too fast when I hit the exit ramp, and the slick pavement on a misty afternoon was not able to keep me from shearing off a curve sign on my way over the embankment. To my good fortune, JB knew enough to go straight into the ditch instead of swerving and rolling, and by the time I ground to a stop, I was hidden in a clump of bullrushes in a small wetland area in the V where the ramp nears the main highway to Ottawa. I was unhurt, the airbag did not deploy and JB's engine was still running fine, so I tried backing out of my predicament with no success. The only option was to call my trusty emergency road service number for the third time this month, and have them send a tow truck with a winch to pull me out of the swamp. While I was on the phone, a nice woman, who turned around after seeing me lose it in her rear view mirror and came back two miles to check on me, was able to stomp the reeds down enough so I could get out of the car to wait for the tow truck. Another Quebecois, with wife and two children, stopped his pickup and waited with me until the police and the tow truck arrived. The Officer gave me an insurance confirmation slip so my insurance carrier would know what happened, and the tow truck driver took me to the nearest truck stop so I could make arrangements for the night before he dropped JB off at his shop. Miraculously, JB needs only a new windshield, which will be done by tomorrow, in time for me to get to Oxford, Ohio, for Wednesday's Miami U.-Cincinnati game. When I get home, there's a little scrape on the fender I'll get fixed and a wheel cover dent to be popped, but aside from that, JB and I are just fine. This means that JB has both gotten me through again and taught me a valuable lesson at the same time. Practice what you preach...if you're going to tell people about safe driving, you'd better be careful yourself. And of course, JB's timing for this lesson was impeccable; a brand new four-story Super 8 within sight of the truck stop, high-speed internet in the room, and a gourmet sports bar with huge flat-screen TV's just around the corner. If you've got to learn this kind of lesson, Quebec is certainly a nice place to do it! JB's and my longest-ever road trip is now scheduled to end on October 4th, a total of 48 days away from home. Boy, am I glad Sandy understands all of this!

THE RED ZONE By Craig Burroughs

My diatribe last week about the NCAA Executive Committee's attempt to be "politically correct" and mollify a small minority of activists upset about the use of Indian names must have fallen on deaf ears (either that, or they don't read our stuff). The University of North Dakota's appeal from the NCAA edict requiring UND to remove all of their Fighting Sioux symbols and logos or be banished from NCAA championship competition was denied last Thursday, despite the university's long and active history of support for Native American education, health, economic welfare and social causes. Among American institutions of higher learning, I dare say it would be difficult to find a university with more programs benefitting natives than UND. And the Fighting Sioux logo, designed by a renowned Native American artist from North Dakota, is just about as tasteful and respectful as athletic logos come. The NCAA's rejection of UND's clearly-reasoned appeal has, and should have, been met by disbelief and frustration by the university administration in Grand Forks. Much to the NCAA's discredit, their actions will likely lead to lawsuits, and UND's may very well be the first and most compelling. The folks at NCAA HQ in Indianapolis apparently don't remember the legal wrangle that cost their members untold millions a few years ago when they tried to restict the pay of assistant football coaches. That was a topic the NCAA should logically have been involved with, since it is, after all, an "athletic" association. I'm at a loss to understand why the NCAA thinks it is somehow sanctioned to be the moral arbiter of what is and is not acceptable on individual college campuses that are in no way breaking any laws. The NCAA's anti-betting and sportsmanship agendas are fine, because they relate to the behavior of athletes, administrators and fans. But when a voluntary athletic organization begins trying to tell a small number of members that their behavior is abusive and humiliating because they have a mascot with an Indian motif, they are simply asking for controversy and comeupance. I have traveled the country for the past 17 years watching football games at all levels, in all venues and at all types of colleges and universities, and I have yet to meet a Native American who was upset that Indians were being used as symbols of strength, courage, discipline and honor. I've seen America's two originally native-only colleges play each other; the Indians from Haskell Indian Nations University, a school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and enrolling only native tribal members, played the Warriors of Bacone College, whose original mission was to provide educational opportunities for Native American students, and which still celebrates its Indian heritage. The game was called the "Indian Bowl" and it was played at Indian Stadium in Muskogee, Oklahoma, formerly known as Indian Territory. I spoke with coaches, players, fans and administrators from both schools, and not one said that he felt uneasy or in any way ashamed about using the name Indians, or Warriors, or playing at Indian Stadium. There was a beautiful, patriotic native ceremony in lieu of the National Anthem before the game, and despite the fact that the Warriors clubbed the Indians, no one went home thinking he or she had been humiliated or abused. And why don't the NCAA honchos understand this? Maybe because HINU and Bacone are members of the NAIA, where actual sporting competition seems to be more important than political correctness and moral meddling! Wake up, NCAA....it's not your job to tell your member schools how to behave toward racial minorities. It's your member schools' job to educate the masses about how to behave toward racial minorities, and how they do that is their business, as long as they're not breaking any laws. I'm just sorry that you've chosen to create a legal battle where none needed to exist.
* * * * *
Last weekend was this year's first big upset Saturday of the season, especially in Division II.  Washburn's Ichabods knocked off #5 Pittsburg State in overtime, 35-34, for their first win over the Gorilla's since 1980.  And #3 East Stroudsburg couldn't stop a very good #16 Bloomsburg team, losing 31-24 in overtime.  Two "new" teams also had big days, with the CIAA's St. Augustine's(NC) beating North Carolina Central in just the Falcons' third year of varsity football after a long hiatus, while a resuscitated St. Paul's(VA) beat Virginia Union in it's first year back in the CIAA after playing two years of club football to restart its dormant program. Northern State(SD) upset Concordia-St. Paul, 20-19, to put itself in position to battle Winona State and Bemidji State for Northern Sun supremacy, and Fort Lewis got by its perennial conference strongman, Chadron State, to stay in the Rocky Mountain hunt.  Eastern New Mexico, which lost its opening game 51-0 to Central Arkansas, won back some respect Saturday by clobbering a good Angelo State team, 38-14, while New Mexico Highlands, after two winless seasons, joined the fun with a 26-24 upset of NAIA powerhouse Northwestern Oklahoma.  Henderson State seems to be rounding into form under new Head Coach Scott Maxfield with a 23-0 shellacking of Harding, which handed #6 Valdosta State a surprise defeat a couple weeks ago. The Reddies had a record day, with Dane King throwing a 98-yard TD pass to Marques Clark, breaking the school mark for longest pass play by 12 yards.  But the biggest upset last week in D-II didn't occur on the field, it occurred in the office...the office of Missouri Southern State Head Coach John Ware, who died of a massive heart attack on Tuesday morning while working to prepare for Saturday's game with Truman State.   Ware had coached at Truman for 19 years, the final 9 as the Bulldogs' head coach, before moving to Southern last season.  Players on both teams mourned their fallen coach and friend before Saturday's game, and his current players had one of the best games he could have hoped for in a 41-17 win.  After Truman tied the score at 17 in the 2nd Quarter, Southern's defense took over, holding the Bulldogs to 4 first downs and 74 yards total offense in the final half, and -29 yards rushing for the game.  Ware was remembered at a memorial service on Monday on the MSSC campus, and his life will also be honored on Wednesday in his hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa.  It seems like a long time ago now, but it has been just five weeks since I covered Missouri Southern's opening game, a 38-21 win at Ouachita Baptist.  It was obvious in that game that John Ware was a good college football coach, and it is obvious now that he will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and learned from him.

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