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NCAA tells N.D. delegation no budging on Fighting Sioux nickname settlement

INDIANAPOLIS The end apparently has come for the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. After a two-hour meeting with NCAA officials here today, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the association will not budge, and he will ask the North Dakota Legislature in N...

Sen. David Hogue, Grant Shaft and Robert Kelley arrive in Indianapolis for NCAA meeting
Sen. David Hogue, left, State Board of Higher Education president Grant Shaft, center, and University of North Dakota president Robert Kelley arrive at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. Kelley and four state leaders had a meeting at the NCAA headquarters to make their case for keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS

The end apparently has come for the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

After a two-hour meeting with NCAA officials here today, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the association will not budge, and he will ask the North Dakota Legislature in November to delegate authority over the nickname issue back to the State Board of Higher Education.

"It's clear that the NCAA will not modify the terms of the settlement agreement and will stand by its provisions," Dalrymple said immediately following the meeting at NCAA headquarters.

He said that he was persuaded that retaining the nickname could cause serious harm to the university and its athletic program.

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"Since the end of the legislative session, we have learned that consequences to UND are greater than we realized during the session," he said. The 2011 Legislature passed and Dalrymple signed a law directing UND to keep the nickname.

Dalrymple noted sanctions against UND, which are to go into effect Monday, would prohibit the university from hosting a post-season tournament and athletes would not be allowed to wear the logo in post-season play.

"Since then, I have learned sanctions also will result in (NCAA) member schools refusing to schedule games with UND, and the university will not be allowed to join the Big Sky Conference."

"I have come to the conclusion that the consequences of not retiring the Sioux logo are too great."

He said he will ask legislative leaders to introduce legislation during the special session scheduled for November to delegate the issue back to the state board. He said that legislation "probably will also require an affirmative vote by directors of the UND Alumni Association." One concession that the NCAA leaders made, according to Dalrymple, was that "they will communicate with members that UND is in the process of retiring the logo, and they should take that into account in any scheduling decisions they make."

He said the meeting with NCAA President Mark Emmert and Vice President Bernard Franklin was a fair hearing, but there was "no question" that the NCAA was standing firm.

"We appealed for the better part of an hour," for relief, he said. "We asked the question a number of ways."

Dalrymple was joined at the meeting by Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the House majority leader and author of the Fighting Sioux nickname bill, and by state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. UND President Robert Kelley, Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot; Grant Shaft, president of the State Board of Higher Education; and Jody Hodgson, director of Ralph Engelstad Arena, also were delegation members.

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"Rep. Carlson, disappointed as he is, said he will not do anything to harm the university," said Dalrymple.

Carlson, in a hurry to catch a flight home after the meeting, said that he was "disappointed" and that he still had hopes they would open the agreement.

"The Native Americans in our state, a majority of them support the nickname," Carlson said. "The NCAA is hurting the very people they claim to be helping.

"But we're going to have to live with it."

Dalrymple and Carlson were not clear as to whether the legislation envisioned for November would involve repeal or amending of Carlson's original nickname bill.

Shaft said it was "a very good meeting, and all the participants were able to articulate every view out there supporting the nickname. I don't think any stone was left unturned."

He said that if the Legislature does delegate responsibility for the nickname back to the state board, "I'm certain the board will revert to its former position."

A May 2009 directive, reiterated in April 2010, directed UND to transition away from the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

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Shaft said the unusual step of much of the state's hierarchy traveling to Indiana "definitely was worth it" because of the association's willingness to give the university time to implement the transition without fear of scheduling problems with other NCAA member schools.

"We'll have some relief on that, some cooperation with the NCAA, with our scheduling and conference affiliation," he said.

Bob Williams, an NCAA communications vice president, said afterwards that North Dakota officials "made it clear they were committed to changing the legislative action that required retention of the Fighting Sioux name and logo."

In the meantime, he said, "our settlement remains in effect, and the University of North Dakota is subject to the policy. The Fighting Sioux nickname and logo will be dropped, and until such time as it is, the University of North Dakota is subject to the policy."

Kelley did not offer comment after the meeting.

Dalrymple said the NCAA leaders also agreed that the transitioning of Ralph Engelstad Arena regarding logos and insignia will be negotiated by Stenehjem and the NCAA.

Williams confirmed that the two side "agreed to have a discussion regarding that timeline," but he said provisions in the 2007 settlement agreement concerning what must be removed and when "remains in effect."

Hodgson did not speak with reporters as he left the meeting. In the past he has been adamant about not stripping logos and other Sioux-related items from the privately owned arena.

Asked what might happen if the UND Alumni Association directors decline to go along with this resolution, Dalrymple had no answer.

The Legislature is scheduled to meet in early November to consider reapportionment. Dalrymple said he will ask legislative leaders to introduce a measure during that session dealing with the nickname issue, and he indicated that it likely would be sponsored by lawmakers who favored the Carlson bill.

Asked whether he could vote for legislation that would return the nickname issue to the state board, Carlson responded with a wry laugh and shrug of his shoulders as he headed off to hail a taxi.

Before the meeting

Before they entered the NCAA building, the state leaders met briefly with two UND graduates who live in the Indianapolis area and had come wearing Fighting Sioux jerseys to show their support.

"Thank you," Dan Kahl, 55, said as he shook Dalrymple's hand.

Kahl, originally from Cando, N.D., is a 1977 UND graduate and still a season hockey ticket holder. With him was Lucy Klym, 25, also a UND graduate.

The Fighting Sioux name and logo are on display, obscurely, in the NCAA Hall of Champions museum next door to the headquarters.

A painting, based on a photograph, shows a Sioux goalie - apparently Jordan Parise - shaking hands with an opposing player on the ice during an undated Frozen Four competition. Part of the logo and the last two letters of "Sioux" are visible on the goalie's jersey.

Throughout the four years since the settlement, NCAA officials have been circumspect in their comments on the dispute, usually issuing only terse statements that their policy is unchanged. Before today's meeting, an NCAA spokesman said that neither Emmert nor Franklin would have any comment before or after.

Recent lawsuit

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Bismarck, six American Indian students at UND alleged that the new state law directing the university to keep the nickname is unconstitutional and should be retired.

Carlson had noted Thursday that the group's spokesperson, while an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, is an attorney from New York.

"It was nice of them to keep it local," Carlson told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Dalrymple, Stenehjem, the state, UND and the State Board of Higher Education are named in the lawsuit.

After the State Board directed UND to begin a transition away from the nickname in April 2010, Kelley named transition committees to consider how to honor and preserve the history and traditions of the more than 80-year-old nickname. Those groups were nearly a year into that work when the 2011 Legislature passed, and Dalrymple signed, Carlson's keep-the-nickname bill.

NCAA executives said at several stages that the law would have no effect on its policy against the use of American Indian nicknames, logos and mascots by member institutions, and that sanctions would be applied to UND if the Fighting Sioux name and Indian-head logo were not dropped by the deadline specified in the 2007 settlement agreement.

The deadline is Monday.

Sanctions include a ban on hosting postseason games and UND athletes wearing the nickname and logo on uniforms in postseason contests.

More worrying to some, including many nickname supporters, was the impact the continuing dispute could have on recruitment, scheduling and UND's prospective entry into the Big Sky Conference next year. Presidents of Big Sky schools indicated earlier this year that the unresolved nickname issue would be a problem.

The students named in the lawsuit include Lakota (Sioux) people and members of other tribes in and outside North Dakota, who have said they all suffer discrimination or discomfort because of the nickname.

All allege that the nickname has had "a profoundly negative impact" on their self-image and psychological health, and the long-running and often bitter fight has denied them "an equal educational experience and environment," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Their cause was endorsed Thursday by David Gipp, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a UND graduate and president of United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. Often celebrated by UND as one of its star American Indian graduates and a symbol of the school's acknowledged efforts to improve educational opportunities for Indians, he has long opposed the nickname.

"This lawsuit is long overdue and very necessary to refocus the discussion about what is at stake when discrimination is allowed to continue unchecked in a public institution of higher education," Gipp said.

"It is unfortunate that American Indian students at UND have had to take this action to protect their own rights. Their access to educational services and their educational progress is threatened by the continued use of a divisive sports nickname."

Some American Indians and others have sought for decades to get rid of the nickname, which was adopted in 1930, and their cause was boosted when the NCAA adopted its policy against use of American Indian names and imagery in 2005. Many member schools dropped Indian names and logos, but UND refused and was placed on a list of 18 schools in noncompliance in 2006.

Two appeals failed, and the university sued the NCAA. The 2007 settlement negotiated by Stenehjem gave UND three years to win the approval of the two namesake tribes or drop the nickname.

The Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe gave its blessing through a referendum, but no such endorsement came from Standing Rock. Nickname supporters, including Standing Rock members who collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition, have denounced Standing Rock tribal leaders for not allowing a referendum on their reservation.

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