Two years later, the desire of the UND administration to get its program in a major conference (the Summit League) appears to have been the death blow in a prolonged dispute over the school's nickname and logo (as depicted by former UND goalie Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux at the 2008 Frozen Four).
North Dakota has used the nickname "Fighting Sioux" since the 1930s. However, it's been a source of controversy around the school for at least the past decade. That controversy came to a head Thursday, when the North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted 8-0 to order the school to retire the nickname.
UND must retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo starting Oct. 1 unless the university can get not only the blessings of the two namesake tribes, but a 30-year agreement with those tribes.While there is an opening for the nickname and logo to remain in place, the university president knows that this is probably the end.
It's a condition that appears all but impossible given the reality of tribal divisions, the timing of elections on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the extensive negotiations that would be necessary for such a long-term agreement.
UND President Robert Kelley, who was at the board meeting, said he believes the board action probably seals the fate of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.The school's attempt to gain admission to the Summit League looks to have been the final nail in the coffin. The league denies intervening at all in the situation in Grand Forks.
"I think it does," he said shortly after the meeting adjourned. "I think it's about as close to a final resolution as we can hope it to be."
For the university to gain tribal approval by October, "it needs to be a binding 30-year agreement, and I'm very doubtful that can be achieved," he said.
The hockey arena in Grand Forks, Ralph Engelstad Arena, is adorned with literally thousands of Sioux logos, including in the marble floor of the arena lobby. Part of the retirement of the Sioux name will be the removal of many of these logos, though how that will be done is unclear.
The family of Ralph Engelstad, who donated $100 million to the school for construction of the facility, is understandably not happy with the ruling.
"My father was immensely proud as a student-athlete to be identified with the Fighting Sioux and its proud and honored heritage," commented Kris Engelstad McGarry, daughter of Ralph Engelstad. "We stand with the 67% of tribal members at Spirit Lake who believe the identification with a fine university is a relationship which would have continued to bring benefit and opportunities to the Sioux citizens.Engelstad, a longtime supporter of the Fighting Sioux name, died in 2002.
"I am deeply disappointed that the State Board and President Kelly are not committed to retaining the Fighting Sioux name and logo, however I can't say that I'm surprised by their lack of conviction. This is a sad day for North Dakota."
Were this done for the right reasons, not many would have a serious problem with the decision. However, the university is only bowing to continued political pressure with regard to the name, and they're not doing this simply because they think it's right.
Instead, the higher-ups have determined that the fight is no longer worth fighting. For those who have been fans of the school, and appreciative of their near 80-year tradition of respecting and honoring the logo, it's truly a disappointment.