NCAA Denies UND Appeal On Nickname

The battle between the University of North Dakota and the NCAA over UND’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname and imagery continued Friday with the NCAA’s decision to deny North Dakota’s final appeal, keeping the school on the list of institutions subject to restrictions from NCAA championship events.

The NCAA’s Friday release said, in part:

In denying the University of Illinois, Champaign, the University of North Dakota, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania appeals, the Executive Committee concluded that Native American references used by each university create hostile or abusive environments inconsistent with the NCAA constitution and inconsistent with the NCAA commitment to diversity, respect and sportsmanship.

Today’s decision means the University of Illinois, Champaign, the University of North Dakota and Indiana University of Pennsylvania will only be invited to participate in NCAA championships if they elect to do so without Native American references on their uniforms and associated athletic program activities. It also means these institutions will not be allowed to host NCAA championship events.

North Dakota president Charles Kupchella immediately objected to the NCAA’s ruling.

“We are not only disappointed by the NCAA’s action, we are baffled by it,” Kupchella said in a statement. “We will continue to take issue with the fact that the policy is illegitimate and that it has been applied to UND inappropriately and in an arbitrary and capricious [manner].”

Kupchella indicated that the school was weighing its options, including legal action.

Several schools, including Florida State and Utah, have been removed from the NCAA’s initial list of restricted institutions, based in part on approval from “namesake” tribes.

North Dakota has similarly cited the support of local Sioux tribes in its appeals, but a recent letter to the NCAA from Ron His Horse Is Thunder, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, stated the tribe’s opposition to UND’s use of the nickname and cited a 2005 tribal resolution which “respectfully requests UND to discontinue use of its nickname and logo and supports the NCAA decision to bar the use of Native American tribal names in post season games by colleges and universities.”

That statement was in contrast to a review provided to the NCAA by Archie Fool Bear, a Standing Rock council member, in support of North Dakota. In his letter to the NCAA, His Horse Is Thunder said that Fool Bear’s review “does not reflect the official position of the [Standing Rock Sioux Tribe].”

North Dakota’s other Sioux tribe, the Spirit Lake Sioux, passed a tribal council resolution in 2000 that supported the nickname under certain conditions, including efforts by UND to promote diversity and oppose racism. Officials of the Spirit Lake tribe have not yet officially confirmed nor altered that position.

North Dakota’s home venue, Ralph Engelstad Arena, hosted the 2006 West Regional, which UND won to advance to the Frozen Four.

The venue, built with funds donated by the late Ralph Engelstad, is adorned with thousands of Fighting Sioux logos. The NCAA declined to attempt to remove the regional from Grand Forks since the contract under which UND was awarded the regional was signed before the NCAA’s current policy on “hostile and abusive” Native American imagery was adopted.