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Utes get to keep name

The University of Utah scored a double victory Friday: A few hours before the U.'s opening-game win against Arizona, the NCAA gave the university permission to retain its nickname — the Utes.

The university had sent a seven-page appeal to the NCAA on Wednesday, asking that it be removed from a list of 18 schools subject to restrictions because they have American Indian nicknames, mascots or images.

Besides Utah, the NCAA approved the removal of the Central Michigan University Chippewas from the list.

U. President Michael Young was pleased with the NCAA's prompt response to his school's appeal.

"We are very pleased that the NCAA has recognized our close and mutually respectful relationship with the Ute Tribe and accordingly has removed the University of Utah from their list of schools that use Native American names or imagery inappropriately," Young said. "We appreciate their prompt attention to our appeal."

In its appeal, Utah included two letters in support of the university, from Maxine Natchees, chairwoman of the Uintah and Ouray Tribal Business Committee, and one from Craig Thompson, commissioner of the Mountain West Conference.

"For many years, the Ute Tribe and the university have maintained an effective partnership," Natchees wrote. "The tribe, the university and their members and supporters are proud of the Ute name and the culture it represents. Indeed, the Ute name and culture are the predicates of our state's name — Utah."

Last month the NCAA Executive Committee ruled that 18 schools using nicknames associated with Native Americans would not be allowed to use mascots at NCAA tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders would also be barred from using Indian images on their uniforms beginning in 2008.

Two weeks later, the NCAA backtracked and said it would review the schools on an individual basis and that approval from American Indian tribes would be a primary factor in deciding appeals. Florida State, which threatened to sue over its use of the Seminoles nickname, appealed and was taken off the NCAA's "list" last week.

Utah had hoped to get its name cleared before Friday night's nationally televised game, and the NCAA responded.

"The NCAA Executive Committee continues to believe the stereotyping of Native Americans is wrong," the organization said in a statement. "In its review of the particular circumstances regarding Central Michigan University and the University of Utah, the NCAA staff review committee noted the relationship between the universities and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and the Northern Ute Indian Tribe, respectively, as a significant factor."

Utah athletic director Chris Hill was also happy to hear the NCAA's decision.

"I think it's just something we heard clearly from our fans, that we were very respectful of the Ute tribe, and we decided to appeal," Hill said. "The university has always been close to the Ute tribe. I think it's standard operating procedure to be in touch with the Ute Tribe to do the right thing."


Contributing: Associated Press