Official: UND nickname settlement will impact new president

Grand Forks, North Dakota (AP) 10-07

The chairman of a committee searching for the next University of North Dakota president says the settlement with the NCAA over UND’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname might put the next president in a difficult position.

“The next president would have to deal with this general issue no matter what the resolution was,” said Paul LeBel, who is dean of the UND law school. “But it sounds as if the terms of the settlement will put the president in the position of having to seek support for the continuation of the nickname or lose the support of important constituencies.”

The NCAA in 2005 banned the use of the nickname is postseason play, labeling it hostile and abusive. UND sued to challenge the ban in October last year and got a temporary order allowing the continued use of the nickname and logo while the case moved through court.

Under terms of the settlement approved by the Board of Higher Education, North Dakota officials have three years to persuade Sioux tribes to support the Fighting Sioux nickname, or it will be retired.

UND President Charles Kupchella is retiring at the end of the academic year. His successor is to take office next July.

The nickname issue might preoccupy the next president during his or her first months in office, said LeBel, who is leading the search for the next president. The three-year period in the settlement also will prolong a time of divisiveness on campus, he said.

“Speaking just as an individual, I’d like to see something that doesn’t take three years,” LeBel said. “If the tribal governments say now that they don’t agree (to support the nickname), then we should start the transition. (I’m saying that) as a member of the UND community, but I think it has an impact on the search as well. Prolonged uncertainty is a bad idea.”

LeBel said the university’s attorneys probably got the best settlement possible and that he appreciated their work. The presidential search will be aided by a condition of the settlement that the NCAA must withdraw its statement that UND’s campus environment is “hostile and abusive,” he said.