Board of Trustees > Meeting Archives > August 10, 2005 Minutes

The Florida State University Board of Trustees
Conference Call
August 10, 2005
1:00 PM- 2:30 PM


Members Present : Dr. Jim Cobbe, Mr. Christopher Schoonover, Mr. David Ford, Dr. Jessie Furlow, Mr. Manny Garcia, Mr. Andy Haggard, Mr. Harold Knowles, Dr. Stanley Marshall, Mr. Jim Smith, Mr. Derrick Brooks, and Dr. Ann McGee, and Mr. John Thrasher.

Members Absent : Mrs. June Duda had an excused absence.


1. Call to Order and Welcome – Mr. Jim Smith, Chair

Chairman Jim Smith called the emergency conference call meeting to order. He said that he called the meeting in order to discuss the impact of the recent NCAA policy on the use of American Indian names. The policy will be effective Feb. 1, 2006, and would prohibit Universities such as Florida State from displaying what it calls “hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships.” The NCAA Executive Committee has included FSU in its list of 18 colleges and universities that “continue to use American Indian imagery or references and are subject to the new policy.” The prohibition does not absolutely keep teams out of post-season play -- but they must cover up or remove any offending logos and bench their symbols for playoff games. It does not apply to post-season Division I football bowl games, which do not fall under NCAA authority. The NCAA said that: “Institutions affected by the new policy can seek further review of the matter through the NCAA governing structures.”

Chairman Smith said that Florida State has a long-term relationship with, and support of, the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In June — at an unprecedented meeting of the FSU president and tribal leaders, in Hendry County — the tribe reaffirmed its endorsement in a very formal manner. He said that the Board is very disappointed at this arbitrary ruling and will not stand by and let this happen without a fight.

Chairman Smith said that Florida State has over 50 years in the relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. FSU and the Seminoles have enjoyed an outstanding relationship. He said that as Attorney General he was in several fights for civil rights to avoid a lot of the issues that the NCAA policy says it is trying to prohibit. He concluded by saying that as an FSU Board Member, as a former public official, and as an FSU graduate, that this NCAA action is insulting.

2. NCAA Ruling – Remarks by President Wetherell

President Wetherell indicated that Mr. Dave Hart, Athletics Director, would provide a detailed report and explain the process by which the NCAA came to this conclusion.

A two-minute video produced in conjunction with the Seminole Tribe of Florida was presented to the Board.

Dr. Wetherell indicated that for over fifty years, Florida State University has made a very concentrated effort to work with the tribe to develop not just an athletic relationship, but also an academic relationship. The University has developed scholarship programs, courses, and activities with tribe participation. He said that to have a ruling of this nature when neither the University, nor the tribe was asked to participate is particularly offensive. Dr. Wetherell said that the University is studying the NCAA letter on how to conduct the appeal.

3. Overview – Mr. Dave Hart, Athletics Director

Mr. Hart reiterated the importance and value of the relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for many years. He said the words “hostile and abusive” when describing Florida State’s relationship with its symbol namesake and its honoring of the Seminole Tribe of Florida appear to be devoid of logic, reason, and a genuine evaluation of that relationship by the committee who forwarded this recommendation. The NCAA has chosen to ignore the reality and instead is focused on applying arbitrary standards in general with a broad brushstroke based upon unrepresentative examples and inadequate data. There is a complete lack of standards, consensus, or definition regarding what is meant by the terms “hostile and abusive.” To the extent that there is any discussion whatsoever about hostile and abusive mascots or namesakes within the NCAA structure it should be done on a case-by-case basis in a transparent manner with the membership listening and participating and having input into that discussion with clearly defined standards and definitions and evaluated upon any appropriate information that any reasonable person would then rely upon in conducting his or her affairs.

Mr. Hart indicated that the NCAA has set its agenda first, then focused on selecting a filtered reality designed to concur with their agenda. There has been a failure to get truly meaningful information from the true stakeholders in this process, i.e. the individual schools that makeup the association and the other participants in the overall issue and certainly the Seminole tribe of Florida. The policy announced by the executive committee contradicts the findings of the same committee, made up of different people, but the same committee in 2002. In 2002 the committee’s decision was that any decision on symbols or mascots--and we do not use the word mascot ever in any media guide--never referencing the symbol that we’re so proud to utilize. But in 2002 that was deemed by the committee to be an institutional decision, which did not fall under the authority of the NCAA. The irony of this reversal of policy was that the NCAA has promoted institutional autonomy for years and now passes a policy, which is in direct conflict with a long held stance. In fact, it appears to be heading toward elimination of University autonomy.

Mr. Hart said that the process by which the NCAA arrived at this policy was very flawed and circumvents the association’s ultimate responsibility, which is to reflect the consensus of its own membership. In fact the meetings by the committees were being conducted in an almost clandestine fashion giving no transparency to the process association-wide. He said that the NCAA has been rightfully proud of their stance that the institutions--we are the NCAA. Mr. Hart said that he personally has defended the NCAA over the years in the profession using that same terminology. The special committee not only determined that it would speak for the entire membership, but also kept the institutions in the dark during the final process, including the President who represents the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Chair of the Management Counsel. The flawed process raises the question as to whether this was an association recommendation or one driven by a small special interest group with personal agendas. A number of independent polls have suggested both specific American Indian populations and those reflecting that population conflict with a policy suggested by the committee. An open-and membership-driven dialogue could have resulted in a discussion to attempt to determine the definition by which symbol is deemed hostile or abusive and would have addressed the larger issue whether this should remain an institutional decision as was determined in 2002.

Mr. Hart said that the committee’s recommended policy change in language would seem to demand inclusion of an examination of a variety of other mascots, symbols, that they also be offensive to any number of people. He said that the nature of the process played a larger role in the fact that the resulting policy recommendation can be reviewed as contradictory, hypocritical, inappropriate, inconsistent, and even embarrassing. Among the most intolerable elements of the entire discussion is the fact that the very committee who built their platform on addressing insensitivity would then suggest that it should be palatable to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida State University to cover-up symbols during NCAA championship events. This was the reasonable and thoughtful solution arrived at after four years of discussion, keeping in mind that the same committee came to a totally different conclusion a little more than 2 years ago.

Mr. Hart said that the ruling suggests that FSU can remain honored and proud to be called Seminoles in the regular season, but not if the University is to compete in NCAA championship events. Further, he said why was it that Florida State University and the Seminole tribe of Florida were not extended the courtesy of addressing this committee regarding their relationship and history. Why wasn’t the Seminole Tribe of Florida asked if they felt represented hostile or abusive qualities? There was no invitation to Florida State or the Seminole tribe of Florida to testify before the committee.

Mr. Hart concluded by saying that it was his personal opinion that this decision was an abuse of discretion by the committee and the University will pursue through appropriate NCAA avenues all remedies to appeal our inclusion on this list. He said that if the University cannot receive a serious and open-minded response the University would continue to seek a more attentive and objective audience through the legal arena in order to uphold the privilege to call us Seminoles. Mr. Hart said that the University would collectively go through the appeals process to have Florida State’s name removed from that list because it simply does not belong there.

Mr. Hart explained the appeals process.

4. Discussion -- Board of Trustees Members

The Board of Trustees discussed the NCAA issue at length. Trustee Haggard asked about the legal appeals process. Trustee Thrasher talked about the legal aspects surrounding the issue and said that after a review of the NCAA Constitution and Bylaws, that the executive committee may not have the authority to establish and direct general policy for the Association. The Bylaws specify that the executive committee is supposed to afford legislation to the entire membership for a vote and there is no provision that it gives them the authority to “adopt policies” for the entire association. He said that if we decide that the NCAA process is unfair and lacks due process then the University should sue them.

Trustee McFarlain suggested that the President send the NCAA a letter asking them by what authority are they bringing this action. Trustee Furlow urged that the appeal ask the NCAA to consider each University on a case-by-case basis and not lump all Universities into one group. The University has treated the Seminole Tribe with a lot of respect and has incorporated the Seminole tribe into both the athletic and academic process of FSU. Perhaps there should be a joint letter from FSU and the tribe as a beginning point of the appeal.

Trustee Knowles urged immediate action. Trustee Cobbe asked about the self-evaluation study completed by FSU and when it was submitted. Dr. Wetherell responded that the University participated in that self-study and submitted that documentation to the NCAA and met with the tribe to be sure that it was correct.

Trustee Thrasher indicated that Congressman Feeney, U.S. Senators Martinez and Nelson and State Legislators are examining options to reverse the NCAA decision. Dr. Wetherell said that the NCAA has found a way to unify Democrats, Republicans, Washington, D.C., and the State of Florida, so there will be plenty of help available.

5. Closing Remarks & Adjournment

Trustee McFarlain made a motion to: 1) appeal the ruling through the NCAA processes as far as possible; and 2) authorize the University to continue to proceed in any manner deemed appropriate to obtain outside legal counsel. Trustee Furlow seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Chairman Smith thanked the Board for participating in the emergency conference call. The meeting adjourned at 1:40 p.m.


The Florida State University Board of Trustees approved the minutes on September 19, 2005.