OUR OPINION: Let UND retire the controversy

By now, just about everything that can be said about UND's Fighting Sioux nickname has been said. And we get the sense North Dakotans are pretty tired of the debate.

By now, just about everything that can be said about UND's Fighting Sioux nickname has been said. And we get the sense North Dakotans are pretty tired of the debate.

Count that as one more reason to vote "yes" on Measure 4 and let UND retire the name.

Because if the "no" votes win and UND is forced to keep the name, then the one thing we know for sure is that the arguing will continue. Worse yet, the dispute will step up in intensity, widening the divisions and deepening the bitterness that have been growing over the past year.

Think back.

Before the NCAA handed down its rule barring tribal names, the anti-nickname forces were limited in both their size and impact. Lots of faculty members disliked the name, as did some number of alumni, observers, tribal members and academic organizations.


We'll never know their total numbers, but we do know this: Collectively, they lacked power and so were fundamentally ineffective. UND made some changes at the margins. But other than that, the university called itself the Fighting Sioux and seemed willing to do so forever, to the great delight of vast numbers of North Dakotans.

The president, the administrators, the fans, the coaches, the Board of Higher Education members: All were united in their support for the nickname and their belief that it was a big net positive for UND.

That's no longer the case.

Now, UND's administration itself is trying to change the name. Now, UND's coaches are trying to change the name. Now, higher-education board members, Grand Forks-area legislators and big percentages of UND alumni and fans also are trying to change the name.

Most of them still love the Fighting Sioux nickname. But all of them now are convinced that keeping it is going to hurt -- not help -- UND.

That's the argument that has been building over the past year. And if Measure 4 fails and UND must keep the nickname, then that's the argument that's going to play out for years to come.

You can picture the points of contention now: Playoff difficulties. Recruiting problems. Conference issues. Other schools' refusal to play UND or staging of protests on game days. The contest over the Sioux tribes' views, with so much depending on who's elected to the tribal council.

And all of it rehashed in endless detail.


Then there will be the lawsuits and countersuits, the initiated measures and countermeasures, some of them coming with the backing of UND's leadership, who see and must answer for the harm the sanctions bring to UND.

Do North Dakotans want that?

Do North Dakotans want a UND whose administrators, coaches, alumni foundation executives and other leaders oppose the school's nickname and are dismayed by its effects?

Because that's what North Dakotans are going to get if Measure 4 fails, the nickname is retained -- and the damages to UND start to mount.

No true supporter of UND will be able to sit idly by while that happens. So, the boosters will complain, the quarrels will continue.

And the cycle will keep repeating itself, until at last the state has had enough and passes another law or measure to change the name.

That's something like an inevitable outcome. No high-profile Division I university can forever sustain the discord and public-relations body blows of the type the coaches already are enduring.

The only question is, will North Dakotans go through more years of anger and insults before reaching that day?


Or will they bring about its arrival Tuesday?

Three decades of debate is enough. Vote "yes" on Measure 4, and let UND stop being distracted by controversy and start focusing on academic and athletic excellence again.

Endorsements represent the views of Forum Communications, the Herald's parent company. The above endorsement was written by Tom Dennis, the Herald's opinion editor.

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