Almost two decades ago, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, retired its American Indian nickname, Redskins, after years of controversy.

Initially, there was pushback. Angry alumni vowed to never donate another dollar to the university because they would be Redskins forever, off-campus bookstores continued to sell Redskins gear even years after the school became the RedHawks, and harsh letters to the editor filled the opinion section of the local newspaper.

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But today, the climate is much different from when the new name was adopted in 1997, said Claire Wagner, the director of university news and communications at Miami.

"I don't hear the Redskins name anymore," she said. "But does that mean some alumni don't get together and use it? Maybe they do privately, but it's not something you hear."

UND will now begin a similar transition. After years of controversy, UND announced its new nickname will be the Fighting Hawks during a presentation Wednesday.

The transition to the new nickname will be difficult for some to make, said Eric Simons, author of the book "The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession."

Though the athletics teams haven't played under the Fighting Sioux moniker since 2012, a majority of hockey fans still wear Sioux gear to games, and Sioux-inspired chants still fill the Ralph Engelstad Arena each game weekend.

So how do fans of UND athletics trade Fighting Sioux for Fighting Hawks?

"It's not unique to this particular controversy," Simons said. "This is, in some ways, one of the great questions in American political life right now. How do you convince somebody to change? And once the change has been forced, how do you react to the people who won't?"

Real emotions

People relate to their sports teams on a personal, subconscious level, Simons said. Sociological studies show that to sports fans, their team's' success and failure matter just as much as a family member's success or failure.

"The emotions that people have about their sports teams are easily dismissed," Simons said. "It's easy to say 'Get over it. This isn't real.' And I think that's not true. In ways that are mostly subconscious, the emotions of this are real. The sports team is quite real to you and it matters tremendously to individuals."

In 1997, when Miami University underwent a similar name change, tensions were high, Wagner said. Though there was that initial pushback from emotional alumni, those days have since past.

"There were some alums who said 'I'm never giving another penny to Miami University,' " she said. "But it did not affect our fundraising, and it has been a positive for Miami."

The school is named after the Miami tribe that originally settled in western Ohio before being resettled to Oklahoma. Wagner said the school used Redskins to honor that tribe, but when the tribe asked the school to stop, it obliged.

The school has had decent success marketing the RedHawk, but only recently did it convince some shops in town to stop selling shirts with Redskins on them. That took a visit from the school's licensing agency and trademark manger to stop, Wagner said.

But the school has made an effort to not entirely get rid of the school's history of having an American Indian moniker.

Wagner said the university has recently approached those stores and discussed working with the tribe so it can sell memorabilia that reflects the Miami tribe's heritage and explains the tribes relationship to the university.

Since becoming RedHawks, the school and tribe have had a strong relationship, Wagner said, with a Myaamia Center-which translates to Miami from the tribe's native language-built on campus to focus on the tribe's language, culture and history.

"We realized the tribe is a terrific resource, so we've tried to utilize them as much as we can," she said.

The transition

After the NCAA banned American Indian imagery and names, Arkansas State changed its nickname from the Indians to the Red Wolves. That process has been a successful one, said Bill Smith, the school's executive director of marketing and communications.

"I think it's been one of the most remarkable rebrandings of all the institutions that were in that same space," he said.

Smith said the Red Wolf logo helped people's transition to the new moniker. While playing as the Indians, the school had gone through several different Indian logos that Smith said most of the fanbase weren't overtly thrilled with.

The new logo, depicting an angry red wolf, is something that alumni and students have seemed to embrace with open arms, along with the new name, Smith said. Some locals have even sported shirts saying, "My Indian name is Red Wolf," to pay homage to both nicknames.

The most important part of the entire process, he said, is the stage UND is currently in-the transition. If the school can get people to buy into the new name quickly, it should lead to an easier transition.

"It's something that will live with the institution, but I think the defining part of it (for UND) is how this time is managed-the transition," he said. "There are universities in our region that have far more significant groups that still want to cling to their old university mascot."

Smith said the nickname change coincided with a renaissance both with the school's academics and athletics teams. The school has made five straight bowl appearances under the Red Wolf name.

"There's a lot of good feelings about being a Red Wolf," he said.

New identity

James Bowie, a senior lecturer at Northern Arizona University, who is one of a handful of academics who studies sports logos, also believes a winning team can bring more acceptance to the Fighting Hawks name quicker. A nickname's meaning to people ultimately comes from memories they have attached to it, Bowie said, such as the school winning seven hockey national championships when playing as the Fighting Sioux.

"So if North Dakota wins the hockey championship next year as the Fighting Hawks, then that adds a positive meaning to the name," Bowie said. "I think the perception of the name will be based not on the fact that it's a bird and everybody has a bird, but what ends up happening with the university and its sports teams."

Bowie said it's not easy for Fighting Sioux supporters to move on from losing the name and logo. Change makes people uncomfortable, and it's possible that only time can help ease the transition, he said.

Simons agreed, saying time is the best solution, but for now, people are going to be angry and frustrated, and there's not much the university can do to change that.

"This is something that you are taking away from people," Simons said. "In some way, you are taking away somebody's identity by doing this, or at least a part of their identity. That is a profoundly unsettling thing to do to someone."

At the UND women's hockey game Friday night-the school's first home game under the new nickname-the team wasn't introduced as Fighting Hawks, but the name was used sparingly over the public address system throughout the night. Fighting Sioux cheers were shouted by spectators young and old.

At the men's game, "Let's go Sioux" chants still filled the arena in St. Cloud, but fans could be heard yelling "Ca-caw!" to each other. The lack of an outright negative reaction could be sign the fanbase will eventually accept the school's new identity.

"I think you have to be patient and acknowledge that this is emotional, and not illegitimately so, and that this will be temporarily difficult and painful," Simons said.