Fans voice dismay with NCAA rule affecting 'Indians' name 6-12-07

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas State sports fan Joe Turney says he doesn't like a new NCAA rule that could force the school to drop its Indian team name and mascot and adopt a new one, but that may not be the point.

“I grew up an Indian and I'll die an Indian,” Turney said Monday. “What I want is what's best for them and, unfortunately, that may not be what I would like to see us do. But the ultimate thing is to do what's good for the student-athletes.”

Turney is a member of a committee named by the ASU Board of Trustees to consider the options and recommend action in the wake of a rule adopted by the NCAA in 2005. Saying that mascots, images and team names with native American themes are considered hostile and abusive to that ethnic group, the NCAA barred their use at post-season NCAA events.

The ASU panel met Monday with a roomful of Indian fans to hear their opinions.

Dick Clay of Jonesboro, a retired sportscaster, asked for a show of hands by opponents of the NCAA's move among those attending the session. Several people raised their hands, but not a majority of the audience.

“I don't think that anybody has the right to tell us what to name our teams,” Clay said. “The Indians are the name... The NCAA ... (is) trying to be politically correct and all, and I think we should fight it. ... I for one will give a $500 check to start it all.”

But Robin Aaron, an ASU student serving on the committee member, offered a different perspective.

“We've been the Gorillas, we've been the Aggies, we've been everything else, the Runnin' Joes,” she said. “Things change, and if it's time to change and it betters our school, I'm all for it.”

Malessie Mosier, a student who was in the audience, asked where the money would come from to pay for the changes that would be needed.

“My tuition just got raised a hundred dollars,” she said.

Athletic Director Dean Lee, a committee member, estimated a cost of $250,000 to $300,000 to eliminate the Indian mascot and image and adopt another symbol for the school's teams.

The committee has planned another meeting next Monday.