Friday, September 01, 2006

U of I Bungles Chief

The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday (thanks to Illinitalk reader Frank the Tank for the tip) that, according to unnamed university sources, the Chief is gone after this season (at least from performing at official university events).

Perhaps the reporter (Dave Newbart) didn't contact the university and if so, I can understand why the official U of I position is left out of this story. However, this is a terrible leak that shows the unversity's ineptness to the very end at dealing with this situation.

The story running on the AP wire does some damage control today but for some reason the official university position in this story doesn't help me sleep any better:

A university spokesman said Thursday that while some change in Illiniwek’s status can be expected, the Chief’s fate has not been decided and the board is committed to its process for reaching what it has called a “consensus conclusion’’ to a debate that has divided the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus for years.

“University leadership is not taking any interested party in a consensus-solution process for granted,’’ said Tom Hardy, the director of university relations. “Certainly that would apply to any organization of former chiefs.’’

Looks like we'll have to sit tight to see what happens but a few things are for sure:

1. The NCAA is the main party to blame here. We have talked about this plenty of times here but it bears repeating: They are out playing PC police when they should be going after recruiting violations. They have put Illinois AD Ron Guenther and the university in a terrible position. Since when does the organization that supposedly prides itself on giving each member university autonomy stick its nose this deep in someone else's business?

2. I don't want to see the Chief retired as the official symbol of the university. However, if it happens, I do want to see control, trademark etc. all transferred to a private organization (such as a group of students who used to protray him). That way the tradition stays alive in a dignified way and, because it would be privately run, we avoid all the headaches presently being caused by the NCAA.

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