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ULM has chance to make trenchant social commentary

You can’t fight The Man, and in intercollegiate sports for all but the smallest schools the National Collegiate Athletic Association is The Man. Unfortunately, it’s also terribly politically correct in its assertion that schools cannot use any “hostile” or “abusive” racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, imagery or nicknames at any of the NCAA's national or regional championships.

Never mind it’s another example of people eagerly seeking victimhood and then using it to assert their own peculiar moralities on the rest of the population. Or the hypocrisy of it all – the NCAA seems to think Notre Dame University’s “Fighting Irish” is all right, even though that conjures up the stereotype of the red-nosed, heavy-drinking Irish who then get into brawls. (As part-Irish, I should object to this but, frankly, I never gave it another thought until right this minute. So there.)

Notre Dame can get away with it because it’s the only university with more officially rewarded championships in football than the University of Oklahoma and has enough muscle to negotiate its own football broadcasting rights unlike every other school. But the University of Louisiana at Monroe, having suffered through one name change just a few years ago, now finds it must change its nickname from “Indians.” It could appeal but that seems like a waste of time, or it could not send any mascot or reminder of the nickname to any NCAA championship rounds in which its teams might play. (Personally, I would have ULM’s spirit squads and the like wear black headbands with a feather attached in the back as a protest during these contests, but it’s that kind of forthrightness which keeps me as a little old college professor rather than gets me promoted to be a university president or chancellor.)

(Another thought: isn’t OU’s nickname “Sooners” also pejorative? It basically glorifies lawbreakers – Sooners were people who jumped the gun before the official time to get more and better land when the Indian Territory was opened to white settlement. But, as mentioned above in reference to ND, when the NCAA is dealing with the Alpha and Omega of college football ….)

Nevertheless, yet again to perform public service, I will suggest five candidates for new nicknames for ULM, taking into account the uniqueness of the Louisiana cultural, historical, and political experience. Starting with the obvious:

  • Coushattas – this tribe signaled acceptance of the current name, and the NCAA says if names that are tied to individual tribes are approved by that tribe (designed to appease big-money schools like Florida State, Utah, and Illinois) they’ll accept it, so why not give the Coushattas a little free publicity (although given ULM’s performance on the athletic fields in recent years, it may not be all that much and not even that desirable, but it’s the thought that counts). It can’t hurt, given who used to be one of the Coushattas’ lobbyists.
  • Governors – if it’s good enough for Austin Peay … Louisiana’s had some pretty colorful ones, so why not celebrate this part of our heritage, even though another name might be more appropriate when referring to them, or to politicians in the state in general …
  • Jailbirds – can you imagine the interesting situations that could develop from having this nickname; for example, uniforms could be white and black stripes, definitely distinctive and causing maximal confusion with the uniforms worn by most sports’ officials? And it also neatly sums up what far too many college ex-athletes, or even current ones, eventually turn into.
  • Hurricanes – yes, this may be more appropriate for some of ULM’s southern brethren which actually get flooded out by them, but why not? It would bring pride to the state to show we don’t fear these storms by embracing them, and it recognizes the unique cleansing they bring to the state in terms of a more-efficient state budget, of endangering electoral careers of politicians who are way past their primes if they ever had them, etc.

    But there is one, indisputably superior choice that would represent a period in state history, adhere to the dictate (as other schools are allowed to use it), and would show the stupidity of the entire idea of political correctness run amok and hypocritically applied in college athletics:

    Rebels… fight fire with fire. Maybe the NCAA can get a load of a nickname with some genuine social commentary -- against its idiocy.

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