From the late 1990s through 2005, Iowa could not have played Central Michigan in football unless the schools met in a bowl game.
In 1994, Iowa’s Board of Control — the precursor to the current Presidential Committee on Athletics — crafted a policy preventing the athletics department from scheduling non-Big Ten or non-NCAA events with opponents using American Indian symbols or mascots. Iowa and Central Michigan played in 1994 and 1998 as part of a previous agreement, but the school was not approached again by Iowa until a few years ago.
On Aug. 5, 2005, the NCAA prohibited 18 schools with American Indian mascots from hosting tournaments or wearing uniforms with American Indian imagery without first obtaining permission from a native tribe. Central Michigan was one of the 18 schools held in violation because of its athletics nickname, the Chippewas. Among the other schools cited include Florida State, Utah and Illinois.
The NCAA’s policy forced Illinois to retire Chief Illiniwek — its long-time mascot — and its traveling trophy with Northwestern, the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk. But the Fighting Illini moniker stayed because it related to the state name and not for the tribe.
Central Michigan became one of the first to obtain tribal permission to retain its moniker. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe worked with the school, which appealed the ruling, and the NCAA approved Central Michigan’s mascot retention on Sept. 2, 2005. Florida State (Seminoles) and Utah (Utes) also kept their nicknames by appeal. Others, like North Dakota (Fighting Sioux) did not.
“Our policy is that we won’t schedule a competition against a school using a Native American mascot unless it’s been approved by the NCAA,” said Mark Abbott, Iowa’s associate athletics director for legal affairs who primarily handles football scheduling. “There was a time when Central Michigan was not on our approved list. But it has been approved by the NCAA, and now it’s acceptable to our policy.”
Central Michigan is Iowa’s third non-conference football opponent in the last four years originally found in violation of NCAA policy on “hostile and abuse” nicknames. In the wake of NCAA policy, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State dropped their nicknames from Indians. Each school soon after signed deals to play at Iowa. The Hawkeyes faced Arkansas State (now the Red Wolves) in 2009 and Louisiana-Monroe (Warhawks) in 2010.
All 18 schools now have either retained their nicknames through tribal approval, shed their mascots or their imagery.