UND hockey's Hakstol says Sioux nickname law creates 'insurmountable challenges'

UND men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol, a longtime strong supporter of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, said Wednesday that mandating the use of it by law creates "insurmountable challenges" for the school.

Dave Hakstol
UND men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol (video file image from UND Athletics)

UND men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol, a longtime strong supporter of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, said Wednesday that mandating the use of it by law creates "insurmountable challenges" for the school.

Speaking at his weekly press conference, Hakstol said that it is his opinion that the NCAA won't change its stance and that he believes the Big Sky Conference will move on without UND.

"With all of these factors in mind," he said, "I don't see any way that the University of North Dakota can be a fully successful Division I entity across all sports if we continue to mandate by law the use of the Fighting Sioux."

Hakstol said his opinion on the virtues of the logo has not changed and he encouraged fans to continue wearing their favorite jersey to games.

"I think they should take great pride in the fact that we've always represented the Fighting Sioux with honor," Hakstol said.


He said as long as he's the head coach, his teams will continue to use the history and tradition of the Fighting Sioux to develop teams and learn life lessons. But Hakstol, who stated that he's speaking only for himself and not trying to tell people how they should feel, said the nickname debate has changed since he circulated e-mails supporting the law a year ago.

In June, the Big Sky Conference, which UND is set to join in the summer, first made public comments expressing concern about the nickname, saying the it could end up kicking UND out of the league because of the continuing controversy surrounding the name.

In August, a delegation from North Dakota visited with the NCAA in Indianapolis and was told that the NCAA was not going to budge on the issue and it would place sanctions on the school should it continue to use the nickname and logo.

"From my standpoint, it's no longer a debate on the use of the Fighting Sioux name," Hakstol said. "It's gone to a different level. For that, I feel badly for the group from Spirit Lake that has worked in earnest in favor of the name and logo. It's gone away from that debate about the proper use of the name and logo. It's becoming more of a straight up decision based on cold, hard facts.

"Simply put, it will possibly diminish our hockey program slowly over time. In my opinion, it would be extremely damaging to all of our other sports on campus in the near future."

Hakstol said that in taking back control of the nickname via law, the school loses control of several other issues.

"If we choose to complete the transition, that creates many challenges," Hakstol said of the transition away from the nickname. "We're talking about 80 years-plus of history that we have to somehow put into perspective. But at least with those challenges, we fully retain control of how we choose to successfully confront those challenges and overcome those challenges.

"I would prefer to remain in control of our own destiny at the University of North Dakota."


Hakstol said that UND coaches have previously been directed to refer comment about the nickname and logo to either athletic director Brian Faison, president Robert Kelley or the State Board of Higher Education.

He also said he placed a phone call to the family of Ralph Engelstad on Wednesday morning to inform them that he may speak on the subject.

"I am in no way speaking on behalf of (the Engelstad family)," Hakstol said. "I placed a call into the family out of respect for them."

When asked about how difficult it is for a coach and former player to make these comments, Hakstol answered: "Extremely."

"I feel like there's a lot of really good people out there that want to do the right things, that want to try to be a part of helping the University of North Dakota and all of the athletes and programs on campus," Hakstol said. "Quite frankly, I feel, to a certain degree, it's my responsibility (to talk about the issue). It certainly isn't an enjoyable task. I'm not telling people what to do or what to think or even how to vote. I'm just speaking to the facts as I see them."

Frank Burggraf, a member of Sioux hockey teams from 1978 to 1982 and a member of the committee sponsoring the pro-nickname petition drives, was participating in a news conference with Spirit Lake Sioux supporters of the nickname in Fargo when he heard about Hakstol's statement.

"That's unfortunate to hear," he said.

Burggraf suggested that Hakstol "had to make it" (the statement) to preserve his position at UND. Hakstol is currently negotiating a new contract with the school. His current one runs out at the end of the season.


But, through a spokesperson, Hakstol denied the charge.

"Coach Hakstol's decision to address the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo issue today has absolutely nothing to do with his contract status," media relations director Jayson Hajdu said. "Any assertion to the contrary is flat-out false."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to . Staff writer Chuck Haga contributed to this report.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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