The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Last dance for longtime Illinois mascot

The university announced Friday that they will drop the mascot that they have used since 1926.,”

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's mascot Chief Illiniwek will perform for the last time Wednesday at the Fighting Illini's final men's home basketball game of the season.

The university announced Friday that it will drop the mascot it has used since 1926. The "Fighting Illini" nickname will still be used. The chief, portrayed by a student, performs during the halftime show of various athletic events, mainly at football and basketball games.

The decision to discontinue the mascot was made primarily in response to an NCAA ban on schools with American Indian-related nicknames or mascots hosting championship events.

Marquette is no stranger to controversy over American Indian mascots and nicknames. The school dropped the moniker"Warriors" in 1993 and the nickname was changed to "Golden Eagles." The switch upset both students and alumni at the time and is still an issue.

In 2004, Board of Trustees Vice Chair Wayne Sanders offered $1 million to the school if the nickname was changed back to "Warriors" in an inoffensive way. After discussion with students and the American Indian community, Sanders' proposal was rejected by the board of trustees.

"It was an interesting tactic leaving such a small time frame leading up to the last performance," said James Pokrywczynski, Marquette associate professor of advertising and public relations and a 1980 graduate of Illinois.

On-campus protests regarding use of Chief Illiniwek as a mascot began in the 1980s and it has been a controversial issue ever since.

However, according to Mike Lillich, the assistant director of university relations at Illinois, many students and alumni don't consider Chief Illiniwek a mascot, but rather an "honored symbol."

"Anti-chief people say it's a caricature of an Indian," he said.

According to Pokrywczynski, debates over Chief Illiniwek have been going on for at least 10 years. He said that during his time at Illinois there were never any protests against the chief.

"I'm disappointed," Pokrywczynski said. "Never, in the six plus years I was on campus or afterward, did I interpret the mascot as offensive. It's a sad day for a lot of Illini alums. I think we have gotten really twisted up in being politically correct on this issue."

Lillich said he got an idea of alumni reactions right away on Friday.

"The first call I took was from an alum that was in tears," Lillich said. "The phones have been off the hook all day."

Lillich also said the student population is fairly concerned about losing their "beloved tradition."

"A lot of people have strong feelings about keeping the chief because of the traditions associated with it," said Ty Wilcox, a junior at Illinois. "I think it's for the betterment of the school's image. It was relatively insensitive to the Native American community."

Wilcox said there hasn't been any type of student demonstration in support of the chief on campus yet.

"It could get more heated at the last performance on Wednesday," Wilcox said.

The absence of Chief Illiniwek brings up the question of what will replace his performance at home athletic events.

"I think it's going to be difficult, because it's going to be hard to sell something new to the fans," Wilcox said. "It will also be hard because a lot of our chants and the school song relate to the chief and his dance."

Colleges with American Indian mascots/


  • Carthage College,"Redmen" and "Lady Reds"
  • University of North Dakota, "Fighting Sioux"
  • Florida State University, "Seminoles"
  • Arkansas State University, "Indians"
  • Bradley University, "Braves"

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