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Eliminating UND/North Dakota nickname angers many

UND broke the Internet. After the school's nickname committee voted 7-4 to eliminate the possibility of continuing to play as UND/North Dakota, as it has done since the Fighting Sioux nickname was retired in late 2012, social media came alive wit...

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UND broke the Internet.

After the school's nickname committee voted 7-4 to eliminate the possibility of continuing to play as UND/North Dakota , as it has done since the Fighting Sioux nickname was retired in late 2012, social media came alive with many voicing anger at the decision after the Herald posted the article. The Herald's initial post has reached more than 47,000 people on Facebook.

"No nickname is the only one that works!!," Shar Holmen commented on Facebook. "The rest are a joke!! Embarassing!!"

Some said they would only cheer for the Fighting Sioux, and others simply didn't like the names the committee approved for a public vote, which would happen after students return to campus this fall, UND spokesman Peter Johnson said in an email.

"Unbelievable!" Gloriann Fruhwirth Trottier wrote. "The names left are horrible. Thanks for listening to the popular vote ... we are North Dakota!"


At Tuesday night's meeting, some committee members also expressed concern at removing the possibility, including former UND goalie Karl Goehring, student Jazmyn Friesz and Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter.

"Any time you're in the minority it's certainly challenging," Goehring said in an interview Wednesday. "With this case in particular though, to me, we've got the opinions of a small group making the decisions when there are a lot of people who feel strongly and care about it, and that was my stance."

More online:

Internet chatter continued after Fargo radio host Scott Hennen claimed a committee member said UND President Robert Kelley would disband the committee if it approved the UND/North Dakota choice.
"When you say 'Look, if we don't take North Dakota off the list of the finalists then the president is going to disband us as a committee,' well then why have a committee?" Hennen said on the radio in reference to committee member John Bridewell.

Bridewell said Tuesday, "President Kelley, if we send him North Dakota, no nickname, I think he could just disband the committee or just say we could start over, or he could just veto it."

Hennen told the Herald he made his claim because of Bridewell's comment, along with the fact that Goehring told him on air Kelley had said he didn't like UND/North Dakota, though the committee could certainly approve it anyway.

Bridewell said, looking back his choice of words might have been misleading.

"(Kelley) never said that, and that's my fault," he said.


Kelley was in Bismarck Wednesday and unavailable for comment, though he did say in a statement released by the university he appreciated the work the committee had done.

The details for the voting process will be announced in the near future, the university said, and the committee recommended limiting the ability to vote to students, university employees, alumni, North Dakota citizens and donors as determined by the UND Alumni Association and Foundation.

What happened

The committee began meeting in March. The meetings were open to the public, but aside from members of the media, university support staff and committee members, few others have attended.

For discussion on Tuesday, the group ranked the seven potential nicknames, and UND/North Dakota came out as the least favored. Fighting Hawks came out as the winner, followed in order by Nodaks, Sundogs, North Stars, Roughriders and finally Green Hawks, which was also eliminated.

Bridewell began conversation about taking UND/North Dakota off the list of possibilities, saying, as a representative of UND faculty, he felt most didn't want that option.

Committee members Landon Bahl, Chelsea Moser and Diane Hillebrand vocally supported Bridewell's comments, but Goehring, Friesz and St. Peter all cautioned that the 11-person committee couldn't speak for every stakeholder. A motion was then made to eliminate UND/North Dakota, which passed seven to four.

The next day after seeing the public's reaction and getting feedback, Bridewell said he felt the committee did its job, and continuing to play as UND/North Dakota carried too much baggage.


"It's history, and we needed to move ourselves into the next step," he said. "While I think it's important to remember our history and never forget it, at the same time I think it's time for us to move on in the process."

Fighting back

After hearing UND/North Dakota was no longer an option, a Fargo woman said she is planning a protest for Friday on the UND campus.

The Sioux Were Silenced campaign in support of UND's former Fighting Sioux nickname said via Facebook message they are also planning a protest the weekend of Aug. 22, though they didn't have any other details yet. The protest itself will be in support of retaining UND/North Dakota as an option and isn't a rally for the old moniker.

Since April, the group has posted YouTube videos about the the Fighting Sioux name and its eventual retirement after the NCAA threatened sanctions.
"Now, more than ever, it is obvious that the wishes of students, fans and alumni are not being regarded in the least," the group said in a statement via Facebook message. "It is time now for these parties to take action and to not let President Kelley bully us any longer.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, an unscientific online Herald poll of about 11,000 people, found 43 percent prefered "none of the above" over the five nickname options moving forward. Roughriders was voted as the second highest preference with about 17 percent of votes.

Another informal poll posted by the Herald Tuesday night asked, "Do you agree with the UND nickname committee's decision to eliminate UND/North Dakota as an option?" Of the 3,100 that responded, 73 percent said "no."

When the committee took suggestions for the nickname throughout the month of April, "North Dakota" was submitted most frequently, with 1,005 submissions of the 4,950 total that included duplicates. Variations of "UND" were submitted 440 times.


At the meeting, committee member and UND alumnus Lowell Schweigert said he was torn on the issue, but also thought it was a time to have courage and move on with a new name. He ultimately voted against removing UND/North Dakota from the list, noting he thought it would win if it went to a public vote.

A petition to disband the nickname committee and put UND/North Dakota back in the running with the other five possibilities on change.org had also gained 762 signatures by 5:45 p.m. Wednesday.

More reactions

Per an agreement with the NCAA, UND wasn't allowed to implement a new nickname until January 2015. Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, fought to pass a bill that would have extended that moratorium until 2017. The bill ultimately failed in January, and now Louser said he's disappointed.

"I was under the impression there were going to be three names moved forward, not five, and it seems to me the public opinion overwhelmingly supports North Dakota," he said. "I would hope the committee would reconsider their decision."

Keaton Hanevold, a UND student, said in an email the committee should have kept UND/North Dakota on the list because it's what the majority of the public wants, according to online polls.

"I understand that we won't ever move on without a new nickname, but gradually the number of people who live and die for the Fighting Sioux will dwindle (which is something that the NCAA should be ashamed of)," he said. "People will forget. That is when we should be picking a new nickname.

Former UND Student Body President Nick Creamer, who served during the 2013-14 school year, tweeted he was disappointed "the best option" had been removed from the list.


Current UND Student Body President Matt Kopp said if he were on the committee, he would have voted to keep UND/North Dakota. Once school starts, he wants to survey students and find out what they want the university's nickname to be.

"I think the contents of the public vote has to reflect what the public wants to see. It's not democratic if the options people want to see aren't provided," he said. "My ultimate goal is to represent the students wishes."



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