UND misses deadline to drop Fighting Sioux nickname; faces sanctions

FIghting Sioux
The Ralph Engelstad Arena, a sports arena on the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks, N.D., features thousands of American Indian head logos. The school faces NCAA penalties for continuing to use the Fighting Sioux nickname after Aug. 15, 2011.
Associated Press/Dale Wetzel

The University of North Dakota faces sanctions starting today because it continues to use the Fighting Sioux nickname. An agreement the school reached earlier with the NCAA called for UND to stop using the name and logo by today.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson says the sanctions mainly affect tournament play for sports teams.

"Those sanctions say, in part, that we can't host postseason games and we also can't wear our university nickname and logo in postseason play," said Johnson. "There also are some issues related to the imargery in Ralph Englestad Arena."

The Englestad Arena, which hosts hockey and other events on campus, has thousands of Sioux head images built into the facility.

One of the holdups is a recently passed state law which requires UND to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname, despite objections from the NCAA and neighboring Indian tribes who consider it offensive.

After meeting with the NCAA last week, it appears North Dakota lawmakers will undo that law. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has talked of calling a special legislative session for that action.

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Johnson says the school has laid the groundwork for retiring the nickname.

"Not, however, in the area of defining what we might become in the future," he said. "That task group, which we call new directions, never was appointed. So that work, trying to figure out who will we become and what kind of an image will we have, that's still well ahead of us."

Johnson says it's unclear when UND will stop using the Fighting Sioux nickname.

There is also a pending federal lawsuit filed by UND students, seeking an injunction against use of the nickname.