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Saturday, February 17, 2007
Illinois mascot decision won't affect North Dakota suit

Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the decision by the University of Illinois to retire its American Indian mascot Chief Illiniwek will not affect the University of North Dakota's legal case against the NCAA.

UND is trying to retain postseason use of its "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo, which the NCAA has deemed offensive.

"UND doesn't have a mascot like Illinois has," Stenehjem said. "[Illinois'] decision not to use this chief is a decision UND made a long time ago in deciding not to have any mascot. So they're putting themselves in the same position we're in now."

Phil Harmeson, senior associate to the UND president, and John Q. Paulsen, president of the state Board of Higher Education, both declined comment on the Illinois decision, citing UND's legal case.

UND is suing the NCAA over a mandate barring the school from displaying its Fighting Sioux logo in postseason play. That same mandate would have barred Illinois from using its mascot in postseason games.

Both schools lost their second appeals on the NCAA mandate last April, along with Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Stenehjem's office filed the lawsuit against the NCAA last October on behalf of UND and the state Board of Higher Education, which authorized legal action.

A state district judge last November granted a preliminary injunction, allowing UND to retain use of its nickname until the case reaches trial. The trial is scheduled to begin in December.