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Revisiting the UND Nickname Affair

By Staff | Aug 7, 2015

Normally I don’t revisit an old column. However, I feel I must because apparently some weren’t paying attention the first time.

Before I go any further in this column, I must applaud the committee of brave souls who aided the University of North Dakota in choosing its new nickname. It would appear they’ve done the impossible by narrowing a list of nickname suggestions from thousands to hundreds and from hundreds to five: Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, Sundogs, North Stars and Roughriders. They submitted this list to UND President Robert Kelley. In the fall it will be up to school officials to set up a public vote.

But late last month, Kelley essentially put UND/North Dakota back on the consideration list after the committee removed it and a public outcry ensued. And yes, this is after a Forum Communications poll found a plurality of the 8,000-some polled supported it, and after some of the supporters said they were planning protests.

This is the part where I repeat myself and then bang my head against the wall in frustration. UND/North Dakota is not a real nickname. UND has been playing under that for the past three years, since the NCAA said the Fighting Sioux name and logo can no longer be used. While the school has done well under it, it is merely a substitute for a more real identity.

Also, putting UND/North Dakota back on the table is essentially putting “no nickname” on the table. As a move, that honestly makes no sense at all, and it almost invalidates all the work the nickname committee has done – if it succeeds in the final vote.

Some would say that by going with the “no nickname” option, it also allows the Fighting Sioux name to essentially live on, albeit in a form the NCAA would approve of. Oh please. To Sioux supporters, UND will always be the Fighting Sioux and a new nickname won’t change their minds at all.

But UND does need a nickname, and there’s already been talk about how the voting process should go forward. In a column in the Grand Forks Herald, Mike Jacobs suggested limiting the vote to UND athletes because it would establish what he calls a “credible constituency”. There has been talk that “Roughriders” should not be counted as a nickname because of historical double meanings. I’m sure of the big N.D. newspapers have received numerous letters to the editor about this whole thing.

If the process of submitting nicknames is all-inclusive, and it was, then the final vote must be that way as well.

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