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UND/North Dakota out: Committee forwards 5 nicknames for public vote

Playing as UND/North Dakota is no longer an option for the University of North Dakota. After a long discussion, the UND nickname committee eliminated the option of continuing to play as UND/North Dakota, as they have been since the Fighting Sioux...

Jason Jenkins explains UND nicknames to members of the board, Chelsea Moser (from left), Jazmyn Friesz, Karl Goehring and Adedayo Idowu on Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Grand Forks, ND. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

Playing as UND/North Dakota is no longer an option for the University of North Dakota.

After a long discussion, the UND nickname committee eliminated the option of continuing to play as UND/North Dakota, as they have been since the Fighting Sioux name was controversially retired in December 2012 after the NCAA threatened sanctions and years of turmoil.

Five nickname possibilities will be moved forward for a public vote pending UND President Robert Kelley's approval. The 11-person nickname committee consisting of alumni, students and UND faculty voted to submit Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders and Sundogs. UND Vice President of University and Public Affairs Susan Walton said she anticipates the names will move forward for a public vote, the process of which has not been developed yet.

The decision to eliminate playing as UND/North Dakota didn't please everyone on the committee, as Chairman Karl Goehring wanted to let the public decide whether to essentially move forward with no new nickname.

"I have several friends who are athletes, and not a single one plays hockey," committee member and UND student Jazmyn Friesz said. "They just want to stay UND, not to bring back Fighting Sioux."


Regardless, committee member and UND alumna Diane Hillebrand made the motion to eliminate UND/North Dakota. Committee member and UND faculty member John Bridewell seconded it.

The motion passed seven to four with Friesz, Goehring and committee members Dave St. Peter and Lowell Schweigert, a UND alumnus, casting dissenting votes.

This created tension later when Friesz suggested putting UND/North Dakota on the ballot anyway simply to gauge public opinion. Most on the committee were very vocal about disagreeing, and the recommendation was ultimately not included.

The nickname Green Hawks was also eliminated after Goehring said it was very close to the Red Hawks hockey team.

The process

For discussion purposes, the committee ranked the seven nicknames that were a possibility at the beginning of the meeting one through seven, with one being their preferred name and seven their least-preferred.

"It's like golf," Schweigert said. "The lowest score wins."

Fighting Hawks was the most favored name, receiving 33 points, Nodaks came in second with 34 points and Sundogs was third with 40 points. Continuing to play as UND/North Dakota was last on the list with 56 points.


St. Peter, Friesz and Goehring all ranked UND/North Dakota as their top pick, and they all advocated for keeping it on the list.
"Why not let the people have a say?" Goehring said. "There's a way to construct it to give people a say in the matter and still give them other name options as well."

UND Professor John Bridewell, on the other hand, was one of seven committee members who ranked it as their least favorite option and said faculty didn't want to move forward with that.

"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," Bridewell said.

Schweigert said it was a difficult decision for him and ranked UND/North Dakota at four. When the public submitted 1,172 individual appropriate ideas this spring but including duplicates, "North Dakota" was submitted the most often at 1,005 times.

"I think I know what the popular vote would be if we threw these seven names out there based on submissions we had back in April, but I would say I've had alumni and I've had people who are stakeholders at UND who have encouraged me by saying we should pick a nickname, and that nickname isn't' North Dakota because we're always going to be the University of North Dakota," Schweigert said. "It's a time for some courage."

Talking trademark

At the beginning of the three-hour meeting, Assistant General Counsel Jason Jenkins gave a presentation about trademark considerations. He said the more unique a name or mark is, the easier it would be for the university to obtain. Simultaneously, many sports teams across the country use the same names, which collectively weakens the trademark claim and makes that an easier name to obtain as well.

"Fear of liability of infringement should not be your driver," he said.


Jenkins said the remaining nickname possibilities were attainable, but some more so than others.

Roughriders and North Stars would be the most complicated trademark fields to navigate, as the National Hockey League has been historically possessive of North Stars, and Roughriders is trademarked by a sports-oriented entertainment company in Colorado and has several other sports teams using the name including a local high school.

Other recommendations

The committee also recommended the public vote be limited to alumni, students, North Dakota citizens and donors-or "friends of the university" as defined by the UND Alumni Foundation and Association. Goehring noted Kelley has previously said he wants the public vote to be as inclusive as possible.

The committee also wants some marketing ideas for the five potential nicknames to be developed for consideration by the university.

Walton said it's still unknown when the public vote will take place and how it will occur, but committee member and UND student Chelsea Moser recommended waiting until students return in the fall.

St. Peter brought up possibly working with an outside party on marketing and logo ideas for the remaining names, but Kelley had said in the past that the committee's charter was merely to pick a nickname while a logo would be developed later.

"At this stage in the game we're the nickname committee, not the logo committee," Bridewell said.


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