I'm very disappointed by the news out of the state directly to the south of HBIC headquarters, but it appears that the fight is all but lost for the University of North Dakota Sioux. Having not obtained explicit consent from the Sioux tribes in North Dakota, the NCAA is forcing the UND to explore new mascots and team names as the death knell sounds at midnight tonight. I understand that one of the two Sioux tribes in North Dakota didn't give their approval for UND to use their name, but I'm very surprised that some sort of compromise couldn't have been reached - a scholarship program for Sioux peoples, for example. In any case, the University of North Dakota will most likely be looking for a new name for their teams after the NCAA stuck to its guns on the use of mascots "deemed hostile or abusive toward Native Americans."
All of this was supposed to have been prevented when North Dakota state legislature passed a law preventing the changing of UND's beloved nickname. A change to chapter 15-10 of the North Dakota Century Code was written to read,
"The intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the university of North Dakota shall be known as the university of North Dakota fighting Sioux. Neither the university of North Dakota nor the state board of higher education may take any action to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname or the fighting Sioux logo in use on January 1, 2011. Any actions taken by the state board of higher education and the university of North Dakota before the effective date of this Act to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname and logo are preempted by this Act. If the national collegiate athletic association takes any action to penalize the university of North Dakota for using the fighting Sioux nickname or logo, the attorney general shall consider filing a federal antitrust claim against that association."Governor Jack Dalrymple signed House Bill 1263 into law this year. The NCAA took a look at that law, and laughed at North Dakota in a meeting on Friday between the NCAA and the government of North Dakota.
"It's our understanding coming out of this meeting that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo will be dropped," the NCAA quoted its Vice President for Communications Bob Williams as saying Friday. "The contingent from North Dakota made it clear that they were committed to changing the legislative action that would require retention of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. However, our settlement agreement remains in effect, and, as a result, the University of North Dakota will be subject to the policy effective August 15."
Being "subject to policy" means that there would be sanctioned levied against UND which may include the inability to host any championships and a ban on the use of the school's logo or nickname at any championship events. In essence, if UND doesn't remove the name voluntarily, the NCAA will do it for them.
There are already some extreme consequences on the table if UND resists conforming to the NCAA's newest policy. Doug Fullerton, commissioner for the Big Sky Conference of Division I NCAA football, said, "When we invited them into the conference this was not an issue." Because the Big Sky Conference has close ties to Native American tribes and because some Division I schools have stated that they would boycott games because of UND's failure to comply, the writing is all but on the wall for the "Fighting Sioux".
"I have come to the conclusion that the cost of retaining the Sioux logo is too great," the NCAA press release quoted Governor Dalrymple as saying. "There's no question that the settlement agreement will stand according to the NCAA, and there will be no further negotiations."
So what happens next? Well, UND will look a little different next season, according to the official nickname and logo blog.
"After August 15, 2011, the University will officially retire the customary use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, as required by the State Board of Higher Education’s directive and the NCAA settlement agreement. The University's athletic teams will be called UND or 'North Dakota,' and will use the current interlocking ND logo, the North Dakota logo, or the UND 'flame' logo until a new nickname and logo are chosen by the University."Nothing else will change... in theory. Fans can still wear Fighting Sioux clothing and gear, they can still cheer for the Sioux, and only the Alerus Center in Grand Forks will remove the Sioux imagery. The school has already stopped ordering Fighting Sioux merchandise as of October 2010, and all retailers will be unable to order Fighting Sioux merchandise past July 31, 2011, although they can carry and sell any remaining merchandise past that date.
As for a new nickname and logo, nothing is on the table yet. After all, the meeting that took place on Friday was to try and keep the Sioux name, so there has been nothing put in place for a replacement name or logo because North Dakota really wanted to keep the Sioux name for UND.
As for me, I get that the NCAA wants to be respectful of the Native American peoples represented by universities and colleges under their purview. The problem I have relates back to the NCAA Division I football decision: this is more about dollars and cents than it is about common sense. If UND offered a few full scholarships to the Sioux peoples and/or allowed Sioux officials to have representation on the State Board of Higher Education, this may have been averted altogether much in the way that Florida State will forge on as the Seminoles.
Selfishly, I'm going to miss the Sioux, especially on the ice. When you consider all the championships that UND captured while wearing the Sioux name over the vast number of years they have run a hockey program, this is somewhat equivalent to a situation where the Toronto Maple Leafs were suddenly forced to change their team name.
Again, I get that a people's heritage is what is being fought over here, but it's seems like such a shame that the Sioux name can't continue being represented by some of the finest and brightest young people this continent has to offer.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!