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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The NCAA on Friday gave Utah permission to continue using its Utes nickname, just hours before the school's nationally televised football game against Arizona.
The university sent a seven-page appeal to the college sports governing body Wednesday, asking that it be removed from a list of 18 schools subject to restrictions because they have American Indian nicknames, mascots or images.
On Friday, the NCAA approved the removal of Utah and also the Central Michigan University Chippewas from the list.
"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."
In its appeal, Utah included two letters in support of the university, one from Maxine Natchees, chairwoman of the Uintah and Ouray Tribal Business Committee, and one from Craig Thompson, commissioner of the Mountain West Conference.
"It's a great day to be a Ute," Chris Hill, Utah athletic director, said Friday after learning of the decision.
Utah's mascot dresses as a red-tailed hawk and has nothing to do with the state's Indian heritage. Other than the name, the only Indian reference the school uses is two feathers on the "U" emblem.
"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."
On Aug. 4, the NCAA said it would ban American Indian images and nicknames by school representatives at postseason tournaments starting in February. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders will be barred from using Indian images on their uniforms beginning in 2008.
The decision also prohibits schools with American Indian mascots from hosting future NCAA postseason events. Schools that have already been awarded postseason tournaments would have to cover any Indian depictions in their sports venues.
The NCAA also has granted an exception to the Florida State Seminoles.
"The NCAA position on the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery has not changed, and the NCAA remains committed to ensuring an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity for all who participate in and attend our championships," the NCAA said.
"The NCAA recognizes the many different points of view on this matter, particularly within the Native American community. The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)