GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Grand Forks Herald reported Sunday that Judge Lawrence Jahnke has granted a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of an NCAA policy against American Indian nicknames, mascots and imagery.
The Herald said that Jahnke contacted North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in Florida on Saturday night to tell him that he had approved the injunction. Stenehjem is representing the state of North Dakota in its lawsuit against the NCAA. Further details on the judge’s ruling are expected to be released today.
This means that until the lawsuit is settled, the NCAA can’t enforce the policy against the University of North Dakota. That’s good news for UND, whose Division II football team on Saturday became co-champions of the North Central Conference with a 33-26 victory over the University of South Dakota.
In the pairings for the NCAA Division II playoffs announced Sunday, UND was the No. 3 seed in the Northwest Region. As it stands now, the Sioux will host Winona State Nov. 18. UND is 8-0 in the postseason when playing on its home field at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
During a hearing last Thursday in Northeast Central District Court in Grand Forks County, Jahnke heard arguments on North Dakota’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the NCAA.
The judge indicated then that his ruling would be based on whether the NCAA violated its constitution and bylaws when it adopted the policy, not whether UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname and logo was “hostile and abusive” as the association ruled.
Jahnke said he would not make a “knee-jerk reaction” ruling and instead would take time to study briefs filed by North Dakota and the NCAA, as well as conduct independent research on the legal issues presented.
“Obviously, this is a very emotional issue, a very controversial issue and a very sensitive issue,” the judge said in an Associated Press story.
Jahnke set April 24 as the tentative date for a jury trial to determine if the state will receive a permanent injunction against the NCAA’s policy, as well as unspecified financial damages and attorneys’ costs.
The NCAA policy against the use of America Indian nicknames, mascots and imagery it deems “hostile and abusive” was announced August 2005 by the NCAA Executive Committee. UND’s third and final appeal for exemption from the policy was rejected by the executive committee last April.
The policy prohibits UND from hosting NCAA-sponsored championship events or displaying the school’s Fighting Sioux nickname and logo at those events. On Oct. 6, Stenehjem filed a lawsuit for the state on behalf of UND and the State Board of Higher Education, which mandated that the university use the name and logo.