URBANA, Ill. - The University of Illinois will retire its 81-year-old American Indian mascot, Chief Illiniwek, after the last men's home basketball game of the season Wednesday.
The NCAA in 2005 deemed the buckskin-clad Illiniwek an offensive use of American Indian imagery and barred the university from playing host to 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 whether the school will get a new mascot.
"This is an extremely emotional day for people on both sides of the issue, but the decision announced today ends a two-decade-long struggle surrounding Chief Illiniwek on this campus," said athletic director Ron Guenther.
"Personally, as an alumnus and former athlete, I am disappointed. However, as an administrator, I understand the decision that had to be made," he said.
School officials said they received a letter from the NCAA on Thursday that said the school will no longer be banned from playing host to postseason events if it drops the mascot and related American Indian imagery. The sanctions have prevented Illinois from playing host to postseason events in two low-profile sports.
On Friday, 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."
- Illinois basketball player Jamar Smith will miss the rest of the season after injuring himself in a traffic accident.
Smith, a sophomore guard averaging 8.1 points, was driving a 1996 Lexus on Monday night when it struck a tree. He drove back to his apartment complex about a mile away before someone called police, university officials said.
Smith was treated for a concussion, but his passenger, freshman center Brian Carlwell was hospitalized with a more severe concussion. Carlwell was released Friday afternoon.
NORTH CAROLINA: Freshman forward Brandan Wright is questionable for the Tar Heels' game today against No. 21 Boston College after hurting his right shoulder in practice. The team might also be without point guard Quentin Thomas, who has missed the past two practices because of illness.
MISSOURI: Reserve guard Michael Anderson Jr., son of coach Mike Anderson, was suspended indefinitely after an early morning DUI arrest.