Thursday, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education decided to retire the school's "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo, and they have directed the university to begin the transition.
The nickname has been at issue for many years, drawing protests outside venues where the team played road games, and eventually earning the ire of the NCAA. When the NCAA tried to force North Dakota's hand, the dominoes began to fall, making this day practically inevitable.
The late Myles Brand helped spearhead the initial move by the NCAA, which has a ban on Native American imagery in nicknames or mascots. They were labeled "hostile and abusive," and Brand felt it was time for the NCAA to lead the way on removing such images from the athletic fields.
North Dakota fought from the start, suing the NCAA for the right to keep the nickname. The sides settled, with the stipulation that "Fighting Sioux" would go away if UND couldn't get tribal support.
Last year, the board voted to retire the nickname and logo, provided the school was unable to get the blessing of the two tribes in the state to continue using the name. While the Spirit Lake tribe voted overwhelmingly to support its continued use, the Standing Rock tribe never voted. The university had until November to gain their approval, but the board apparently decided they had waited long enough.
Kelley said he will call the commissioner of the Summit League Friday morning "and say the board finally acted."All along, this issue has been political, so it's very fitting that it would find its end because of politics between UND and the Summit League.
He said he hopes that "puts us into the game (Summit League membership) no later than 2013."
For supporters of the nickname, they may never gain full closure. Because the Standing Rock tribe never voted, no one will ever know if the university had the outside support necessary to meet the NCAA's desires and also keep the nickname. Many will find it unfortunate, because sources have indicated optimism that the tribe would have voted in favor.
North Dakota's most prominent athletic program is men's hockey. They have won seven national championships to go along with two dozen trips to the NCAA Tournament. Their jersey is one of the most popular in college hockey, with one of the sport's most recognizable logos adorning the front.
Brad Schlossman, who covers Fighting Sioux hockey for the Grand Forks Herald, reported on his Twitter page Thursday that the school's athletic teams will still be known as the Fighting Sioux during the 2010-2011 academic year.
The transition to a new nickname, whatever that may be, will begin sometime in 2011.
The hockey teams play in privately-owned Ralph Engelstad Arena, which opened in 2001. The facility was funded by longtime UND supporter Ralph Engelstad, who was perhaps the biggest supporter of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. He threatened to pull the funding for the arena during its construction if the university changed the nickname. Engelstad died in 2002.
By design, the removal of Fighting Sioux imagery in the building is cost-prohibitive. There are over 2,400 logos in the arena, some embedded and nearly impossible to remove. This issue was covered as part of the settlement with the NCAA, and the arena does have some exceptions on some of those images.
Images of historical significance: These include championship banners, photos, trophies and statues, such as the Sitting Bull statue in front.The school has until 2015 to remove some of the images.
Images that would be cost-prohibitive to remove, namely the logos in the granite floor.
Images the arena may replace over time: These include carpeting, turf, wood flooring, medallions on the seats and railings, lighted logos outside and etched glass door.