Court, Board Decide to Retire Nickname

ESPN, April 9, 2010

A state Supreme Court ruling and a Board of Higher Education decision have retired for good the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname after a four-year legal battle.

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A motion later Thursday at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting in Mayville to reconsider its vote in May to retire the nickname died after nobody seconded it.

Claus Lembke, the board member who made the failed motion, said the board was “giving in to a minority of people on the issue.”

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UND president Robert Kelley, who was hired in part to help the school in its transition from Division II to Division I athletics, said he’s looking forward to managing the nickname transition.

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In their ruling, the justices said the board had the authority to change the nickname before a Nov. 30 deadline set in a settlement with the NCAA. A group of eight Spirit Lake Sioux tribal members who want the school to keep the nickname were seeking to have the court bar any decision before the deadline.

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Supporters believe the logo shows pride and tradition. But the NCAA considers the nickname “hostile and offensive” and said UND cannot host postseason events without approval from the state’s two Sioux tribes. Under the settlement, the board and UND agreed to begin retiring the nickname if they couldn’t obtain permission from the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes by Nov. 30.

Spirit Lake tribal members have voted to support the nickname, but the Standing Rock tribal council has resisted calls for it to change its bylaws to allow a vote on the issue.

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