William & Mary

College appeals NCAA logo decision

The College of William and Mary is appealing a May 16, 2006, decision by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regarding the use of the institution’s athletic logo. The May decision came as the result of the NCAA’s ongoing review of more than 30 universities’ use of mascots, nicknames, logos and imagery associated with Native Americans to determine whether they are “hostile and abusive.”

An NCAA staff committee ruled that William and Mary’s “Tribe” nickname was neither hostile nor abusive, but it censured the College’s athletic logo. If the NCAA decision stands, William and Mary may be prohibited from hosting NCAA-sponsored post-season games and from using the image in NCAA-sanctioned post-season play.

The appeal—which was conveyed to the NCAA on June 15, 2006—asserts that the NCAA committed several violations of policy, fairness and logic in its decision. It also points out that these errors stand in contrast to the record of adherence to the NCAA ideal of the student-athlete established by William and Mary’s athletic program over many years. The appeal will be evaluated by the NCAA Executive Committee, which is expected to make its decision by later this summer.

Following is the cover letter sent by President Gene R. Nichol to the NCAA regarding the College's appeal.  —Ed.

Dr. Myles Brand

National Collegiate Athletics Association

Post Office Box 6222

Indianapolis, Indiana 46206

Dear Dr. Brand:

Attached is the College of William & Mary’s formal appeal of the May 16 staff decision regarding our athletic logo. It is self-explanatory.

I add only that the William & Mary logo cannot reasonably be seen as violative of NCAA standards. It is not intended to be hostile and abusive. Nor is it regarded as such—either internally or externally. Present NCAA determinations of mascot policy—what is allowed and what is forbidden—are neither comprehensible nor capable of being sensibly defended. I’m guessing that members of the committee may realize this is so. An interpretation that penalizes the College of William & Mary while embracing the depiction of a brave on horseback, in war paint, plunging a flaming spear into the turf at midfield, to the delight of 85,000 chanting, tomahawking fans, is, at best, enigmatic.

There are costs associated with leaving logic behind when enforcing important standards. The first, perhaps, is cynicism. Having now spoken to many hundreds about the NCAA’s position, I can report that it is beyond difficult to find any who believe the organization is being serious and transparent in applying its guidelines. That cannot be good for collegiate athletics.

Beyond that, when rules are made to stand upon their heads, it apparently becomes permissible to contemplate levying heavy sanctions against a university that, according to your own Academic Performance standards, ranks fifth in the nation in scholastic attainment and graduates 95% of its scholarship athletes and 100% of its football team. Few will understand why the College—where athletes regularly don Phi Beta Kappa keys at commencement, gain admission to competitive graduate and professional programs in unusually high numbers, and avoid the corrupting misconduct that too often mars university sports programs elsewhere—has made it to the top of the NCAA’s regulatory agenda.

It would make more sense to study and export William & Mary’s approach to athletics than to penalize it.

I hope you will reverse the staff’s logo determination.


Gene R. Nichol