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What’s In (Our) Name?

Ask and ye shall receive. When the university solicited opinions regarding the controversial nickname issue—a topic addressed in the Summer issue of IUP Magazine—e-mails poured in from all over the country.

Some IUP alumni, students, faculty, and employees urged the university to take a stand against the NCAA’s “politically correct Nazis.” Many just as ardently advocated change. Others suggested IUP dispense with a nickname altogether as a form of protest. A small percentage advised administrators to change the name of the university along with the nickname.

At press time, 61.2 percent of respondents in an on-line survey expressed a preference for something other than Indians, which landed IUP on an NCAA “hit list,” along with eighteen other schools, for having a nickname the organization deems “hostile or abusive.” Some even offered possible alternatives: Aardvarks, Bruins, Chargers (a reference to the area’s power plants), Crimson Grayhawks, Eagles, Coalcrackers (a nod to the region’s coal-mining heritage), Fighting Christmas Trees (again a nod to an area resource), Mighty Oaks, Jimmies (in tribute to Indiana’s Oscar-winning native son, James Stewart), and Pookas, a name any true Stewart fan will recognize.

A handful of respondents looked to the furry inhabitants of the Oak Grove for inspiration. The IUP Fighting Squirrels?

A decision on the nickname issue is expected in a matter of weeks. Check www.iup.edu/mascot for the announcement.

Following are excerpts from some of the e-mails sent by alumni and others affiliated with the university.

Stand Up to the NCAA

Paul Bevington ’99, Allendale, S.C.: “I have felt, ever since this controversy began years ago, that IUP needs to stand its ground and not bow to ‘PC’ pressures. … My suggestion: Stand for what is right, show courage and forthrightness, and don’t back down. The college is worried about future admissions, let’s face it. College freshmen are idealistic and like to support an underdog, so if the NCAA starts throwing its weight around, think of the free publicity the school can gain—all by doing the right thing.”

Pat Condelli ’68, New Kensington, Pa.: “The NCAA should concentrate on safety/health/illegal drug use issues and stop this nonsensical fussing over nicknames. Once an Indian, always an Indian. Tell the NCAA morons to go suck an egg.”

Rich Bartkoski ’75, M’82, Cheswick, Pa.: “The Indian nickname is a tribute to the original people of the area. The nickname of teams for the school I attended was Indians and should remain so. Stand up to the politically correct Nazis at the NCAA.”

Bill Moreland ’82, North Las Vegas, Nev.: “This new NCAA policy is political correctness run amok! What’s next? Will colleges that name their teams after animals have to rename them when PETA gets upset? Have we as a society become so thin-skinned that a simple team mascot causes offense? … The only way to stop this insanity is to … take a stand against political correctness and speech restrictions (which is what this is).”

Rick Schultz ’78, ’82, M’86, South Park, Pa.: “Stick to your guns and retain the Indians nickname. Take your lumps from the NCAA. I hope IUP does land on a televised game with duct tape across their name [a possibility raised by Robert Davies, vice president for Institutional Advancement, in the Summer issue]. It would show how the NCAA has overreacted.”

Take the NCAA to Court

Gary Elliott ’73, Butler, Pa.: “My understanding is that we had two appeals to the NCAA and lost. Why don’t we take them to court? Perhaps the schools that are affected could file a class-action suit in this matter. I don’t believe we should bow down to the NCAA just because they threaten us.”

Brian Higbee ’75, Springfield, Va.: “The NCAA is trying to bully you into doing something that is plain, absolutely wrong! Take them to court if you must. Contact Florida State University [which successfully appealed to keep its Seminoles nickname] and seek their guidance on how to fight these politically correct bullies.”

Ross Brightwell ’78, M’79, Maple Glen, Pa., who donned Indian attire during his days as an IUP mascot: “Join the University of North Dakota (Fighting Sioux), which is led by an IUP alum [Charles Kupchella ’64], in fighting the NCAA.”

Dump the Indians Nickname

Sam Thorp ’92, Pittsburgh: “Change the nickname to something, anything else. This debate has been going on since I was there, perhaps even before. You’ve had time to prepare and think about this. Why wait till the last possible second to act?”

Jed Durso ’91, Walpole, Mass.: “Please get rid of the Indians name. It is racist and I don’t think it puts IUP in the best light. … If IUP wants to be considered a national player, there’s a new set of rules to play by. I’d recommend to start playing by them and stop trying to get exceptions—it just makes IUP look worse.”

Allan Lindstrom ’59, El Paso, Tex.: “I strongly believe that the Indian nickname needs to be retired. The university should not be in the business of offending Native Americans by misusing their culture for athletic identity purposes. Even though some Native Americans are not offended, many are. I would be proud of the university if it takes a stand for what is right.”

Jennifer Ruelens ’03, Mechanicsburg, Pa.: “It is not acceptable to continue using a nickname that is offensive to a large group of people simply for tradition’s sake. We have been talking about this for years, and the longer we continue to use the name the more foolish we look, especially as the NCAA is taking stronger steps towards forcing the issue. Let the stupid name go and get a new one.”

Ron Mabon ’79, M’85, Home, Pa., director of the IUP design studio and cochair of a presidential task force that tackled the nickname issue seven years ago: “IUP is in a difficult position now in justifying its continuation of the Indians nickname. Every Native American group we talked with strongly opposed the use of Indian mascots and nicknames for sports teams. It’s time for IUP to move forward to something new.”

Janet Medwid Voettiner ’59, The Villages, Fla.: “Stop using the name Indians. You must have so many other important things to spend your time and money on.”

The IUP Fighting Squirrels?

Kevin Berezansky ’90, M’94, Homer City, Pa., assistant director, Robert E. Cook Honors College, and proponent of the above nickname: “First, no one can possibly be offended, since squirrels most likely will never think to object. Second, every person who has ever been on the IUP campus will instantly recognize the connection. Third, imagine the Penn headlines: ‘Fighting Squirrels go nuts in 38-3 rout.’ … But most important, don’t underestimate the enthusiasm the students will have for it.”

Doug Jaquith ’92, Lancaster, Pa.: “Why not the Fighting Christmas Trees, like it was suggested back in 1992 during a school newspaper poll of students? Indiana County is the Christmas tree capital of the world, isn’t it?”

William Walton ’63, Chattanooga, Tenn.: “If the nickname is changed, I like the sound of the Mighty Oaks, indicated as one of the suggestions in IUP Magazine. Hopefully, no botanist would object to the name and complain to the NCAA.”

Dennis Hawley ’99, Kittanning, Pa.: “I think the mascot should be a Pooka. Pookas are giant invisible rabbits mentioned in the James Stewart movie Harvey. I think it would be such a unique name it would receive national attention, and I doubt if the Pookas will protest.”

Bill Brown ’59, M’65, Eau Claire, Wis.: “To continue to battle the NCAA is a pointless exercise in futility. … Get a new mascot, a new nickname, and a new logo. … I would suggest Aardvarks. They are quite harmless and kind of funny-looking, nice qualities for a mascot and ripe for a logomeister. You don’t expect to be taken too seriously if you are Indiana and from Pennsylvania.”

Some Other Viewpoints

Bob Marchesani ’83, Indianapolis: “Take advantage of having to get a new nickname by renaming the university. Stop listening to people who have never lived or worked outside of Indiana County. A good school like IUP is hurt immeasurably by its confusing name. Be bold.”

Ken Kuehn ’72, Dallas, Tex.: “Let’s take this opportunity and change the name of our university. I have lived all over the country and have explained what IUP means for the past thirty years. Our nickname is the lesser problem.”

Gene Mumper ’66, Frostburg, Md.: “Drop out of the NCAA. Who gave that organization the mantle of self-righteous political correctness to dictate to IUP or any other university?”

Lance Lockhart ’98, Howell, Mich.: “Let’s not have a nickname at all as a silent form of protest. Let’s just be known as IUP. When people from around the country see our nickname-less school, let them be reminded that this is ‘the school that had their nickname taken away by the NCAA.’”