(1:38 p.m.: Update below.)
Does an argument over a school nickname get your blood cooking on a Monday morning? Hope so, because there's quite the interesting battle going on in the Flickertail State.
The NCAA has for a good while now mandated that the North Dakota Fighting Sioux change its nickname, logo and mascot. A deadline of Aug. 15, 2011, was agreed to long ago, and that deadline is approaching rather quickly. The reason for the mandated change is because the school's moniker goes against the NCAA's policies on using Indian-related mascots and logos. The NCAA is flatly against the practice, considering the use of such logos flirting into the racial and insensitive realm. It's why Illinois had to kill off Chief Illiniwek.
You've seen this fight before.
The University of North Dakota hasn't given in yet because state legislation was passed in March that allows UND to keep its identity. It's basically a government-sanctioned endorsement, something North Dakota hoped would act as a trump card, a power play toward the NCAA. A state senator has asked for more time, and the state's governor, Al Carlson, has even gotten heavily involved.
“I suppose (the NCAA) doesn’t want anybody to think they ever reverse policies. But they also need to listen to what we have to say,” Carlson said. “I do believe they’ll sit down with us, and at least listen ... I think it’s worth a try.”As you'd expect, thousands of North Dakotans contacted the school and state legislature voicing their vehement support over the school keeping its identity.
Carlson said he believed it was important for elected legislators and the governor to make the case for the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. The governor appoints members of North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education.
“It isn’t every day that the governor of a state gets on a plane and goes to talk to the NCAA,” Carlson said. “I think that’s a whole lot different than dealing with a board of regents, or a board of higher ed.”
North Dakota officials would like to meet with the NCAA in July to discuss the issue. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams told the Associated Press such a meeting isn't planned and would, essentially, be a waste of time. In fact, the NCAA put out a statement on the matter Friday afternoon. It's abnormally direct and uncompromising: change your nickname by Aug. 15 or suffer the consequences of sanctions against your university.
"The NCAA’s Native American mascot policy remains in effect, and we stand ready to assist the University of North Dakota with its implementation of the policy," the statement says. "The Big Sky Conference’s position related to the university's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo is consistent with the spirit and intent of the settlement agreement the NCAA reached with the university to retire the nickname and logo. We have made clear to both the conference and the university that the NCAA has no intention of changing its position. If the University of North Dakota continues to use the nickname and logo past the August 15 deadline due to state law, it will be subject to the parameters of the policy. This means the university could not host any championships or use the nickname and logo at any championship events."
You see the Big Sky mentioned in the NCAA's statement, that's because UND is scheduled to move to the conference next July. It's in complete compliance with the NCAA's stance. Bluntly: It doesn't look good for North Dakota. There's a lot of stalling and hey-why-can't-we-talk-about-this-a-bit-more going on. It's unfortunate. The majority of schools with Indian-inspired mascots and logos have tremendous pride and respect for what they represent. The PC-doused NCAA doesn't want individuals, in this sense. It has taken a hard-line stance against any controversial mascot, whether that controversy is perceived only in-house or not.
UPDATE: The president of the university came out on Monday, saying the school has to wave the white flag, accept the name change and move forward.