MATTERS AT HAND: NCAA sanctions will affect UND athlectic teams
It's pretty clear now that UND will face sanctions for obeying state law and continuing to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. After Aug. 1, the law will require UND to use the name. Under terms of an agreement with the NCAA, UND must retir...
It's pretty clear now that UND will face sanctions for obeying state law and continuing to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
After Aug. 1, the law will require UND to use the name.
Under terms of an agreement with the NCAA, UND must retire the nickname by Aug. 15 or face sanctions. This agreement is legally binding, and there's no easy escape clause. The agreement forecloses further legal action.
The only out is for the NCAA to relent. Last week, the NCAA said it wouldn't. Its position hasn't changed. The agreement is binding. If UND reneges, the NCAA will impose the sanctions.
UND will have to obey the law and live with the sanctions. These include no home games in the post-season and no use of the nickname or logo at post-season games played elsewhere. The NCAA will also recommend that schools not in UND's athletic conferences not schedule games with the Sioux.
These sanctions will bite, probably first in the hockey program -- the one most identified with the nickname and logo.
Potential opponents may decide not to schedule UND. At least one, Wisconsin, has indicated it will. This was of small consequence while Wisconsin played with North Dakota in the WCHA because league rules say all schools have to schedule other schools that are members of the league.
But Wisconsin has left the WCHA for a new conference of Big Ten schools, so any games with Wisconsin would be nonconference games -- precisely the kind that the NCAA recommends schools not schedule.
We probably won't see Wisconsin in Grand Forks after the sanctions take effect.
We might not see Minnesota, either. Like Wisconsin, Minnesota has joined the new Big Ten conference.
We also may not see some of the eastern schools that have played here, potentially including such rivals as Maine and Boston College. These schools have never been part of the WCHA, and they're not bound by its rules.
But they are members of the NCAA.
This isn't a small thing. Great athletic programs are built on competition, and that essential building block is now in jeopardy. Plainly put, UND's hockey program is diminished when strong programs such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine and Boston College don't schedule the Sioux.
Sanctions will have an impact on other programs, too, all of which need to step up as the university makes the transition to Division I. This step will be harder if opponents are hard to come by.
UND has a strong football tradition, but the program hasn't been so strong in the past several years. The reason: A lack of opponents who test the Sioux and who inspire fan loyalty. That should end with UND's entry in the Big Sky conference, which includes such schools as Montana and Montana State, both historic rivals. But UND won't be able to host post-season play in football, either, if the NCAA sanctions take effect.
One consequence will be financial. In order to be successful, the city-owned Alerus Center needs crowds at football games, and it needs more games than the regular season provides. These might not happen if the sanctions take effect.
Other programs could be affected. Such sports as swimming and track have hosted post-season play -- but perhaps not if the sanctions take effect.
Then there's the question of recruiting. Will UND be as attractive to prospective athletes if the sanctions take effect? Probably, some athletes will consider the sanctions when they weigh their options, and some may decide against UND.
Will UND be as attractive if its programs begin to suffer?
Then there's the collateral damage. This can't really be measured, but it certainly includes what business people call "opportunity costs." The nickname issue has taken time, effort and energy.
The cruelest irony, however, is that stubborn support of the nickname may end up costing UND its rich athletic tradition, as sanctions begin to diminish its programs.
Bottom line: There'll be less to shout about -- and that will have an impact on every aspect of university life.
Lawmakers managed to overlook these consequences, but UND will live with them for as long as the nickname exists and as long as the sanctions hold.