Fighting Sioux NCAA nickname meeting to be Aug. 12

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

Days after it was postponed because of a state lawmaker’s death, a meeting between North Dakota and NCAA officials to discuss the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname has been rescheduled for Aug. 12.

The meeting, to be held at the association’s headquarters in Indianapolis, is set three days before the NCAA intends to impose sanctions on UND for the continued use of the nickname and a logo that features the profile of an American Indian warrior. The NCAA considers them offensive to American Indians, but the North Dakota Legislature earlier this year approved a law that requires UND to keep both indefinitely.

Grant Shaft, president of North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education, confirmed the new meeting date to The Associated Press.

The university, as part of an October 2007 settlement of a lawsuit against the NCAA, agreed to drop the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011. The new pro-nickname law, which was signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in March and takes effect Aug. 1, prevents UND from meeting that deadline.

Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the North Dakota House’s majority leader and the sponsor of the pro-nickname legislation, has advocated meeting with NCAA officials to discuss public support in North Dakota for the nickname and the NCAA’s reasons for opposing it. The association has repeatedly said it will not change its policy of discouraging the use of American Indian logos, nicknames and mascots at member colleges.

The meeting had been scheduled, but was postponed after the death of the North Dakota Senate’s Republican majority leader, Bob Stenehjem, of Bismarck. Stenehjem was killed in a traffic accident in Alaska, where he had been on a fishing trip.

Stenehjem had intended to make the trip. His deputy, Sen. Randy Christmann, R-Hazen, said no decision had been made about whether another senator would go instead.

“I would think that we probably should have” a senator as part of the delegation of North Dakota officials, Christmann said.

The original group also included Carlson, Shaft, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, UND President Robert Kelley, athletics director Brian Faison, and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who is Bob Stenehjem’s brother. 

A spokesman for Dalrymple said the governor would attend. Shaft, Wayne Stenehjem and Carlson said they would attend. Carlson said he would travel directly to Indianapolis from San Antonio, where he will be attending a National Conference of State Legislatures meeting that week.

A UND spokesman could not confirm whether Kelley and Faison would be present.

The NCAA sanctions for using the nickname and logo include a ban on UND hosting any postseason tournaments, and a prohibition on UND teams wearing the nickname or logo on uniforms during postseason play.

The nickname and logo’s continued use has raised other concerns. The Big Sky Conference, which UND hopes to join next year, has said the issue will complicate the school’s conference membership.