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Dollars at stake on both sides of UND's nickname debate

It's going to cost money whether UND picks a new nickname or not. The school estimates keeping "UND" as the school's nickname instead of picking a new one will cost about $106,600 from 2015-2017. Even though the school has had a task force workin...

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It's going to cost money whether UND picks a new nickname or not.

The school estimates keeping "UND" as the school's nickname instead of picking a new one will cost about $106,600 from 2015-2017.

Even though the school has had a task force working on a plan since September that could be used to pick a new name and logo, State Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, recently filed a bill that could keep UND from doing just that until July 2017. It received a "do not pass" recommendation Wednesday from the the House Education Committee with a vote of 9-2, but will still go to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

The House Education Committee requested financial data from UND, which was provided to them by Vice President for University and Public Affairs Susan Walton, according to an email obtained by the Herald.

According to that email, the $106,600 would be a result of the man hours spent "receiving and responding to unsolicited suggestions and nominations for new nicknames and logos, and cataloguing and recording that information."


But Walton said the money, while important, is only a piece of the puzzle.

"The situation impacts the university in other ways," she said. "Our current students would like to move on. Our student athletes would like a rallying point. Our fans want a defined rallying point, so there are many considerations."


UND has been competing simply as "UND" since the school dropped the controversial Fighting Sioux name in late 2012 after the NCAA threatened sanctions.

UND could legally choose a new nickname after Jan. 1 of this year.

Using the hours currently spent fielding nickname inquiries from the public and media, officials estimated 34 hours per week would be necessary to continue doing so. An executive associate vice president would spend four hours per week and be compensated $317.50, a licensing manager would spend 10 hours per week and be compensated $377.33 and a half-time temp would spend 20 hours per week and be compensated $330.

"A larger part of that is working with folks in the media and others who call in and email in with questions and concerns about the nickname," Johnson said. "It's not necessarily connected to the collection of nickname suggestions."

Those figures are broken out of the employee's current salary and include fringe benefits, except for the temporary position the university is currently looking to fill, Walton said.


"They're consuming time that would be needed for other work, if not this," she said.

While the university has continued to compile a list of nickname suggestions from the public over the years, even though the submissions haven't been requested, it is unknown if the names on that list will ever be used.

Johnson said it would most likely be up to the next nickname committee, assuming the Nickname and Logo Process Recommendation Task Force moves forward with its plan of appointing another group that would ultimately pick the permanent name after a series of public polls.

The group meets again Friday and will submit the final recommendation before the end of the month.

But changing the nickname is also costing the university money.

As of Dec. 30, the university had spent a total of $126,262 on everything the nickname task force required. The task force held many community forums, so while some of the money went toward food, meeting room rentals, travel and IT equipment, more than half went to two consultants who helped the task force.

But officials still hesitate to estimate how much the process could cost in total to replace logos across campus.
"It's not something I could even speculate about because we don't know what the task force recommendations are yet and what that process might involve,' Walton said.



At Louser's bill's first hearing Jan. 12, UND President Robert Kelley testified against HB 1155, saying the money the university makes from selling the license to use its logos and marks has decreased considerably since the Fighting Sioux logo was retired.

UND sells the license to use its marks to wholesalers, so the more merchandise that's made, the more the university earns. Stores stockpiled merchandise with the Fighting Sioux logo on it so it can still be purchased, even though no more could legally be made after March 31, 2013.

"We suspect that uncertainty about the future nickname and logo may have affected fans acquiring merchandise," Walton said.

In 2006, UND made $177,877 in royalties, a dollar figure which continued to climb over the years until it peaked in 2012, when the Fighting Sioux logo was retired, at $691,774.

A year later, royalties were down about 50 percent to $343,313 and while 2014's fourth quarter figures aren't available yet, royalties in total for the first three only add up to $174,390.

These numbers vary from some previously reported because they are based on the calendar year.

Johnson said he had heard from both the public and retailers that they would be eager to purchase new UND gear if and when a new logo is developed.

"Until then, they're just going to keep wearing their old stuff," he said. "I've talked to a lot of people who actually are looking forward to the opportunity to buy new stuff whenever that's available."

Both sides

During the HB 1155 hearing, Kelley said also a new nickname is necessary for the university to move on, a sentiment Walton echoed.

But Louser said in his eyes, playing without an an official nickname hasn't harmed UND.

"To me, this is a fair compromise for those who want the past to come back and recognize that they're probably not going to get exactly what they want and it's a fair compromise for people who say they want something new," Louser told the Herald earlier this month.

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Rich Becker, R-Grand Forks, Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, and Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson. It will go to the full House of Representatives for a vote during the legislative session.

"Ultimately, we understand that our Legislature must do what it thinks is best and we'll comply with whatever legislation will result from this issue," Walton said.

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