UND disapproves of depth chart cover showing Texas Tech mascots chasing American Indian
GRAND FORKS -- On the cover of a depth chart that went out to a select audience at the UND-Texas Tech University game this past weekend were five characters: Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach, Chancellor Kent Hance and Texas Tech's mascots the Masked Raider and Raider Red, all chasing an American Indian on a horse running scared.
In the context of the ongoing debate over the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname, which some believe is racist, any Indian caricature becomes a loaded image.
"I don't think the image represents the University of North Dakota the way we would like to be represented," UND spokesman Peter Johnson said, "but I also think it's impossible to control the behavior of opposing teams."
He said he'd spoken with President Robert Kelley, who saw the depth chart when he attended the game, and that statement reflected the president's feelings.
At Texas Tech, Assistant Athletic Director Chris Cook said repeatedly that the university didn't have any ill intentions. "Regardless of who we've played, we've always been chasing an opponent," he said of the image. "It was another game, another opponent and we're just chasing another opponent. I know there was no malicious intent there."
If it had been the University of Texas, he said, the raiders would've been chasing a longhorn.
Currently, the Fighting Sioux nickname faces an Oct. 1 deadline. Under a settlement with the NCAA, which also considers Indian nicknames racists, the university needs to win the support of both the state's Sioux tribes. The state says that has to happen by Oct. 1. Only one tribe has voted to support the nickname so far.
Depth charts, which list the names of players and their positions, have been going out for years at Texas Tech, all depicting an opponent on the run, according to Cook.
Texas Tech recently stopped doing them to save money, turning the rights over to a private firm.
Only about 1,000 of the UND depth charts went out to suite holders and reporters, he said.
The first Texas Tech heard there might be a problem was on game day Saturday. Some UND officials, including athletics' top spokesman Sean Johnson, told their counterparts at Texas Tech that they weren't comfortable with the image.
Cook said the officials weren't bothered with the Indian fleeing as much as the fact that an Indian was used. This was confusing, he said, because he thought the Indian was UND's mascot, yet UND didn't want it used.
At UND, Johnson explained that there really is no mascot. There's the Fighting Sioux nickname and there's the Indian head logo, he said, but there's no mascot.
Mascots are different because, at least in the case of Indian mascots, they're intended to be representations of human beings and caricatures of human beings, which is at the root of the conflict over the nickname.
Johnson said the university would've preferred that Texas Tech just stuck with the logo.
That logo, too, has been called racist by opponents of the nickname, even though it was designed by an Indian, Ben Brien.
Cook said he and others at Texas Tech are aware that Indian nicknames, logos and mascots can be controversial, mostly when national news stories pop up. "But here regionally, as far as schools we face, off the top of my head, I don't think we've faced anyone that's been through that."
Asked if UND would let other universities know of its sensitivities in the future, Johnson said perhaps it would. But this has never happened at other universities as far as he knows, he said, so the university never thought to voice its concerns.