Posted 8/17/11 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
North Dakotans, and University of North Dakota alumni, who have rallied behind keeping the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo have fought the good fight. And now it is finally time for the fans and the other loyal UND supporters to accept the fact that the name has to go and move on.
For those not familiar with the turmoil over the school’s name, it all began back in 2006 when the NCAA ruled that 19 colleges and universities, including the University of North Dakota, were “hostile and abusive” in their use of American Indian nicknames, logos and mascots. The university then filed suit against the NCAA, and in October 2007, a court-imposed settlement required UND school officials to retire the nickname on Aug. 15, 2011, unless the state’s two namesake tribes approved its use.
While the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe endorsed using the nickname and logo, the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal council refused to allow its members to vote on the issue.
With the NCAA refusing to back off its stance, this past legislative session, the North Dakota Legislature took the issue into its hands and passed a bill that forbid the University of North Dakota officials from dropping the name.
And as they say, the battle lines were firmly drawn in the sand.
The NCAA made it clear that they weren’t going to budge on their position, and that if the nickname stayed, it would impose sanctions on the University of North Dakota. And those sanctions would have disastrous implications on the university and its sporting teams. In all likelihood, UND would not have been able to find a D1 conference willing to accept it into membership. And even if they did, many other colleges would have chosen not to play UND teams at the risk of incurring the NCAA’s wrath.
It was the classic David vs. Goliath clash with North Dakotans being the lowly David, while the NCAA was Goliath. And in this battle, Goliath held all of the cards and made all of the rules.
So in the end, even after North Dakota’s governor and other elected officials tried one last meeting to convince the NCAA that the “Fighting Sioux” nickname was neither hostile or abusive, the state’s arguments fell on deaf ears. The NCAA was going to hold tight, either change the nickname, logo and mascot or face the consequences.
The only logical action for North Dakota now is to have the North Dakota Legislature reverse course and repeal the law that kept the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and allow the university to come up with something new.
In the end, it can never be said that North Dakotans didn’t do all that they could have done to keep the nickname. A good fight was waged. But it was lost. And now it is time to move on.
For the loyal UND fans, the memories of the days of the “Fighting Sioux” will always live on.
And yes, while the change to a new name and logo will be difficult for many to accept, there is no option left on the table to pursue except for a change.