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One more look for NCAA: Stenehjem seeks athletic body's review of changes required at Ralph if nickname goes

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is trying to arrange a visit to Grand Forks within the next two weeks by Bernard Franklin, the NCAA's executive vice president, to review use of UND's Fighting Sioux name and logo at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

N.D. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is trying to arrange a visit to Grand Forks within the next two weeks by Bernard Franklin, the NCAA's executive vice president, to review use of UND's Fighting Sioux name and logo at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Stenehjem, who negotiated a settlement of the state's lawsuit against the NCAA, said he wants to walk through the arena with Franklin to see whether there might be some "softening" of the association's position on what nickname-related items may or may not be retained there if the nickname is retired.

"I was hoping to get him up to one of our early hockey games so he could see the arena in action, but he wasn't able to fit that into his schedule," Stenehjem said. "So I said he should come up at his convenience when there isn't a game on and we'll walk through.

"By the end of this week, we should have something scheduled," he said. "I would prefer to do it before the special session (of the Legislature), in case there's some movement they're willing to make."

Franklin has been the association's lead advocate for removing American Indian nicknames, logos and imagery from member schools' athletic teams, implementing a policy adopted by the NCAA's executive committee in 2005. UND was included on a list of member institutions that were found not in compliance with the policy and contributing to a "hostile and abusive" environment that perpetuated stereotyping.


The university appealed, then sued when its appeals were rejected. The 2007 lawsuit settlement gave UND three years to win namesake approval from two Sioux tribes to continue using the name, which UND failed to achieve.

The settlement also listed Sioux-related items at REA that could be retained upon retirement of the nickname, some for historical reasons and some because their immediate removal would be prohibitively costly.

What can stay

A section of the 2007 settlement agreement states:

"In the event there is a nickname change ..., UND will not use a facility to host NCAA championship contests, whether or not owned by UND, which contains images commonly associated with Native American culture, except as expressly set forth herein."

The agreement then identifies specific items in three categories that could be retained. "Imagery of historical significance" includes championship banners, photographs and trophies, as well as Indian sculptures and statues in the arena or on arena grounds.

In-floor granite logos at REA could be retained because it would be "cost prohibitive" to remove them, according to the agreement.

Some items could be retained for a specified time and removed "in the ordinary course of wear and replacement." That would include names and logos embedded in carpet, artificial turf and laminate or wood flooring, and aisle seating standards at REA, provided the items are replaced by the end of 2012.


Deadlines for the removal of other items, mostly in administrative areas, extend from 2012 through 2015, but brass etched logos and lighted exterior logos at REA are to be removed by the end of this year.

'Softening possible'

"Dr. Franklin is a good and decent man," Stenehjem said. "They're not going to back off the settlement agreement, but they may make some adjustments on what has to happen" at the arena.

"We can't make them (REA) do anything," he said, because the arena is not owned by UND. "But if we get to a point where there's post-season play and the 'Ralph' is interested in hosting, we would have to comply with terms of the settlement.

"Perhaps some softening is possible," he said. "Some of those items may not have to be removed immediately, or ever."

The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment or confirmation of Franklin's intent to tour REA with Stenehjem. "It's not reluctance on his part," Stenehjem said. "He wants to come. But it depends on his schedule, and he's a very busy man."

The attorney general said he still would like to accompany Franklin to a Fighting Sioux hockey game.

"I think he would see the enthusiasm the students have, the respect they have for the logo and name, and the excitement in the arena," he said. "That video they show at the start of games really is respectful, and the reaction the crowd has to it is always respectful. There's always lengthy applause and cheering."


REA mum

The state launched one more appeal to the NCAA earlier this year, adopting a law requiring UND to keep the name and sending a high-level delegation to Indianapolis to persuade Franklin and other NCAA leaders to bend.

The NCAA wouldn't budge off the policy or primary terms of the settlement agreement, which put UND in line for NCAA sanctions that went into effect on Aug. 15. But Franklin and NCAA President Mark Emmert did agree to review changes that would be necessary at REA for the facility to qualify as host for an NCAA championship event.

The North Dakota Legislature is expected to revisit the Fighting Sioux nickname issue during its special session beginning Nov. 7. Several lawmakers have said the general sentiment appears to favor repealing or amending the nickname mandate adopted earlier this year and returning authority over the matter to the State Board of Higher Education, which seeks to have the name and logo retired by the end of the year.

Jody Hodgson, Ralph Engelstad Arena's director, has said he isn't inclined to strip away any of the arena's estimated 3,000 logos and other Fighting Sioux imagery, even if the nickname is retired. "If I have anything to do with it, nothing in the building will ever change," he said in April 2010, when the state board directed UND to retire the nickname. "It would be the utmost sign of disrespect if anybody ever tries to deface that building."

He declined comment this week on Franklin's prospective visit, but Stenehjem said he has talked with Hodgson "about access to the arena for a walk-through with Dr. Franklin."

Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send email to chaga@gfherald.com .


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