Posted 9/01/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
The University of North Dakota administration and the UND Nickname Selection Committee really blew a chance to make amends with many of their loyal fans this past week when it was announced that the name “North Dakota” wasn’t going to be one of the finalists for the school’s new nickname.
As UND President Robert Kelley stated in announcing the five options, “North Dakota is not a nickname - it is a reflection of our pride in who we are. We have been North Dakota - UND - for more than 130 years, and we always will be.”
No one is going to argue that point with Kelley or the selection committee. Nor is anyone going to argue that UND can hold out any chance that the “Fighting Sioux” can ever be resurrected as the nickname. The people of North Dakota made that clear when they voted to retire the nickname. And the NCAA will never backtrack on their standing that the “Fighting Sioux” nickname was hostile and abusive to Native Americans.
But for Kelley and the selection committee to throw out the option of leaving the nickname as just “North Dakota” is going to alienate a huge part of the university’s fan base, as well as financial supporters.
It was a big mistake. “North Dakota” was continually one of the most preferred names during the search for a new nickname. And now the university is putting forward five names that leave a very bad taste in the mouths of those alumni, students and supporters.
So when the voting starts in October for a new nickname, the choices that those who are going to be eligible to vote are Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders or the Sundogs.
What was Kelley and the selection committee thinking? Or, an even better question, what were they fearing?
Were they thinking that, even though President Kelley had earlier indicated he would consider including “North Dakota” as a final choice, those people who supported that nickname would simply go away without challenging the decision?
Or were they afraid that “North Dakota” would indeed be the top choice after the ballots were cast?
Regardless of their thoughts or fears, Kelley and the selection committee have continued to alienate thousands of supporters of leaving the University of North Dakota’s nickname as “North Dakota.”
That alienation does not bode well for the University of North Dakota’s administration going forward. The process of selecting a new nickname was intended to be a public process. It was intended to bring forward a list of new nickname possibilities that were unique, inspiring and distinctly UND’s; promote a sense of pride, strength, fierceness, and passion; be representative of the state and region in a way that honors the traditions and heritage of the past but also looks to the future; and be a unifying and rallying symbol.
There would be those that could successfully argue that none of the five nicknames that are being put forward as finalists meet those criteria. And a case can be made that having “North Dakota” as the nickname also fails in meeting the criteria.
Considering the outcry by a large number of UND’s students and alumni who wanted to see “North Dakota” included as a nickname option, Kelley and the selection committee wasted a great opportunity to help unify all of their supporters. Which is unfortunate because the whole process of selecting a new nickname was to bring unity to the University of North Dakota.