OUR OPINION: Getting to ‘yes’ with the NCAAWhat’s the best way to boost the odds that the NCAA will accept the state’s case? Clearly, the best way is the way the State Board of Higher Education has chosen: Present a united front of state and university officials to make the pro-nickname case.
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
The University of Southern California Trojans rank among the most storied names in college football. The team claims 11 national championships.
Even so, the NCAA last year took away 10 of USC’s football scholarships for three seasons, barred the team from bowl games for two seasons, put it on probation for four seasons and stripped it of all the victories it won in 2004-05 using Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush.
Make that “former” Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush, because as a result of the NCAA’s sanctions, Bush gave up the trophy.
Clearly, the NCAA every now and then takes a very hard line. And on those occasions, not even a century of tradition, a legendary alumni network and a national base of rabid fans can make the association change its mind.
Will the NCAA also take a hard line in the matter of the Fighting Sioux nickname at UND?
But then again, it might not. Maybe North Dakota’s new law enshrining the Fighting Sioux nickname, coupled with the strong support of the Spirit Lake Tribe, will convince the association to relax the terms of its nickname settlement with the state.
So, the question facing nickname supporters is this: What’s the best way to boost the odds that the NCAA will accept the state’s case?
Clearly, the best way is exactly the way the State Board of Higher Education has chosen: Present a united front of state and university officials to make the pro-nickname case.
And the higher-ranking the officials, the better.
“Initial contacts have been made with the NCAA to arrange a meeting over developments in the UND Fighting Sioux nickname debate, a member of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education said Wednesday,” Herald staff writer Chuck Haga reports in today’s Herald.
A face-to-face meeting “could take place by the end of April.
“But it shouldn’t be just higher education officials at the table seeking a new understanding with NCAA executives, Grant Shaft said. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and state legislative leaders or their representatives also should participate.”
In particular, here’s hoping that the governor and House Majority Leader Al Carlson help lead the delegation. The two were instrumental in passing the state law requiring UND to keep the name. It’s only fair that they now use their considerable status and authority to present the case to the NCAA, thus showing that North Dakota state government not only supports the name but is willing to travel and speak out on its behalf.
The board also should consider inviting Spirit Lake tribal leaders to help make the case. After all, a centerpiece of the state’s argument will be that by securing the approval of a namesake tribe, UND now has fulfilled the same conditions that won NCAA waivers for Florida State University, the University of Utah and other schools with now-approved tribal nicknames.
As Bernard Franklin, NCAA senior vice president, said in 2005, “The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used must be respected even when others may not agree.”
The goal in all of the above is to present a united front. Doing so recognizes that while the NCAA may still say “no,” distinguished and high-level representation from the state offers by far the best chance of getting to “yes.”
— Tom Dennis for the Herald