Fighting Sioux nickname meeting with NCAA set

By Dale Wetzel
Bismarck, North Dakota (AP) July 2011

North Dakota’s governor, attorney general and legislative leaders plan to meet with the NCAA next month to see if the University of North Dakota can avoid being penalized for continued use of its Fighting Sioux athletics nickname.

William Goetz, chancellor of the state university system, said the meeting is planned for July 25 in Indianapolis, where the association has its headquarters. Gov. Jack Dalrymple will lead the delegation, Goetz said.

Other participants will include Grant Shaft, president of the state Board of Higher Education; UND’s president, Robert Kelley, and athletics director, Brian Faison; Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem; Stenehjem’s brother, Sen. Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, who is the North Dakota Senate’s majority leader; and Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the House majority leader.

Goetz said that he has not decided whether to attend. The NCAA has repeatedly said it will not change a policy that discourages members’ use of American Indian-themed nicknames, mascots and logos, and Goetz said he wondered whether the meeting would be useful.

“I have some reservations about the value, to be honest with you,” Goetz said. “I’m still thinking all that through.”

UND faces NCAA sanctions and possible complications for its membership in the Big Sky Conference next year if it keeps using the Fighting Sioux nickname and an American Indian head logo past Aug. 15.

At minimum, UND would be barred from hosting NCAA postseason events, and the school’s athletes could not wear uniforms with the logo or nickname in postseason tournaments.

The August date was included in a settlement by the NCAA and the university of a lawsuit over nickname policy.

However, the Legislature this year approved a bill sponsored by Carlson that requires UND to use the logo and nickname indefinitely. It takes effect Aug. 1. Carlson has pushed for a meeting with NCAA officials to see if they can be coaxed into changing their stance on UND’s name and logo.

“I think we have to explain to them why we passed the law,” Carlson said. “I don’t know how far we’ll get, but I think you need to have an open discussion with them. It will be very frank and straightforward.”

Attorney General Stenehjem said he believed the meeting would be worth the time.

“It is worth it to assure everybody that we have turned every stone and attempted every opportunity that we can to see if there is some middle ground,” Stenehjem said. “Everyone can be assured that we’ve tried our best.”