Paul Cline, Tucson, Ariz., column: Money, not race, drives nickname quarrel
By Paul Cline TUCSON, Ariz. -- My compliments to Herald staff writer Tu- Uyen Tran for his excellent reporting on the story, "State Supreme Court hears UND nickname case" (Page A1, March 24). The story brings to the forefront the crucial legal qu...
By Paul Cline
TUCSON, Ariz. -- My compliments to Herald staff writer Tu- Uyen Tran for his excellent reporting on the story, "State Supreme Court hears UND nickname case" (Page A1, March 24).
The story brings to the forefront the crucial legal question in this case: Who owns the UND logo and nickname? The answer to that question is simple: the people of North Dakota via their representatives on the State Board of Higher Education.
Nickname supporters are fighting a battle that was lost before it ever began.
In order to understand the basics of this case, Herald readers first have to divest themselves of the powerful but completely inaccurate notion that this is a fight against racism or racist symbols. It is about money.
In order for UND's athletic program to continue to grow, it must be an active participant in the NCAA. Although membership is strictly voluntary, it is impossible to attract top-tier talent unless your program is capable of competing at a national level; and in the U.S., national collegiate championships are the sole purview of the NCAA.
In response to changing social mores, the NCAA came out strongly against the use of American Indian nicknames and logos in college sports. This decision was no mere position paper or voluntary guideline. Any college or university that chose to keep their American Indian nickname and/or logo would be prohibited from competing in post-season championship tournaments sanctioned by the NCAA.
Because public opinion in North Dakota is overwhelmingly in favor of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, UND officials and the state board initially tried to find a compromise. When it became obvious that any compromise would hinder UND's ability to compete at a national level, support for the nickname and logo among UND administration and the State Board quickly tempered.
This fight never was really about the moral arguments regarding American Indian nicknames and logos. It has always been about the financial gains a college or university makes by fielding a team capable of competing and winning on the national stage.
The state board and UND's administration recognized this fact early on and have been consistently moving to put this issue behind them. I applaud them for their foresight and effort.
When the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo are retired, as they inevitably will be, what will happen? Will attendance at UND men's hockey games drop precipitously in protest? Will season ticket sales flatten to the point that mere mortals and the unconnected might actually get a chance to see a game live?
I think not.
In the end, this simply is about change. It is not a change we wanted or asked for, but it is a change we got.
It is time to move on and quit wasting valuable resources flogging the proverbial dead horse.
Cline holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from UND.