Fighting Sioux nickname ends in 2011
North Dakota ready to comply with NCAA mandate
BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota's Board of Higher Education decided Monday to retire North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname by year's end in a move that anticipates lawmakers will soon repeal a law requiring the school to keep the nickname.
The board, which has eight voting members, agreed unanimously to restart the process of dumping the nickname and a logo depicting an American Indian warrior, symbols that the NCAA contends are offensive.
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The decision, taken during a telephone conference call meeting, followed a session that was closed to the public, during which board members discussed their legal options with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and the university system's attorneys, Pat Seaworth and Cynthia Goulet.
The Legislature earlier this year approved a law that requires the board and UND to keep the nickname and logo, but Gov. Jack Dalrymple and legislative leaders have said they will ask that the measure be repealed during a legislative special session in November.
Dalrymple and Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the North Dakota House's Republican majority leader, were among a group of North Dakota officials who met with NCAA President Mark Emmert last week in an attempt to allow UND to continue using the logo and nickname. Emmert declined to give ground, saying the school couldn't keep the name without suffering penalties.
An October 2007 lawsuit settlement between the board, UND and the NCAA said the nickname and logo needed to be retired by Monday for the school to avoid NCAA sanctions.
They included a refusal to allow UND to host any postseason NCAA tournaments, and a ban on uniforms depicting the logo and nickname during postseason appearances by UND teams.
The Board of Higher Education had previously ordered UND President Robert Kelley to get rid of the logo and nickname in time to meet the settlement deadline, but those efforts were suspended in May when the Legislature ordered UND to keep them.
The board's decision Monday directs Kelley to "substantially complete" the process of retiring the logo and nickname by the end of December.
Grant Shaft, the board's president, said NCAA officials were sympathetic to the university's plight during last week's meeting, which was held at the NCAA's headquarters in Indianapolis.
"The NCAA seemed to acknowledge the difficult position that the University of North Dakota was in, being that it was trying to comply with both the settlement agreement and the NCAA policy, along with the legislative mandate," Shaft said.
UND is attempting to join the Big Sky Conference next year as part of its switch to the NCAA's Division I, and Shaft said the association intended to ask for the understanding of conference officials in the nickname and logo dispute. Big Sky officials have said the problem would complicate UND's prospective conference membership.
Stenehjem said the NCAA would "try to minimize any problems we might have as we seek to enter the Big Sky Conference."