North Dakota to appeal ruling on Sioux mascot

INDIANAPOLIS -- The North Dakota Fighting Sioux will remain
on the list of college nicknames the NCAA doesn't want used in
postseason play.

The university's appeal was rejected by an NCAA review committee
because it did not have the support of the three federally
recognized Sioux tribes of North Dakota, the association said

"Although the University of North Dakota maintained that its
logo and nickname are used with consummate respect, the position of
the namesake tribes and those affected by the hostile or abusive
environment that the nickname and logo create take precedence,"
NCAA vice president Bernard Franklin said.

North Dakota President Charles Kupchella said he would appeal
the decision to the NCAA's executive committee and, if that fails,
seek legal action against the NCAA.

North Dakota was among 18 schools barred last month from using
Native American mascots, logos and nicknames in postseason
tournaments. Florida State, Central Michigan and Utah were later
exempted because of their support by local tribes.

"It is not at all obvious to us why the NCAA finds the
nicknames Chippewas, Seminoles and Utes worthy of exceptions, but
somehow Sioux is deemed hostile and abusive," Kupchella said. "We
must press our case, because to let the charge of hostile and
abusive stand would have a chilling effect to prospective faculty,
staff, and most importantly, prospective American Indian students
we are here to serve."

In North Dakota, however, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the
Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux tribe opposed the Fighting Sioux nickname
and imagery, and the Spirit Lake tribe did not respond to an NCAA
request to clarify its position, Franklin said.

North Dakota will be allowed to host the Men's Division I ice
hockey regional in March because of its prior contract but will be
barred from hosting future NCAA events.

"This decision was made because it is not reasonable to cover
up or remove all of the Native American imagery in the arena,"
Franklin said.

Kupchella said the university has "no choice but to pursue an

"Even those here opposed to the use of the nickname on campus
recognize that UND offers perhaps the best opportunity for many
American Indian students to get an education," he said. "I would
also note that the schools exempted thus far have been exempted on
the basis of a 'special relationship' with American Indian tribes,
yet our proportionate number of American Indian students and the
number of substantive programs in support of American Indian
students exceeds that of all of the exempted schools combined."

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The University of North Dakota may not
use its Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo during NCAA
postseason tournaments, though it still will be allowed to host a
regional hockey competition, an NCAA committee says.

The tournament is scheduled for the Ralph Engelstad Arena, which
is festooned with thousands of logos the NCAA has said it considers
"hostile and abusive" to American Indians.

The decision by the association's staff review committee, which
was announced Wednesday and lauded by Indian leaders, will be
appealed to the NCAA's executive committee, UND President Charles
Kupchella said.

"We do understand there are people who would prefer we not use
this nickname. There may be even some who say they're not honored
by it," Kupchella said. "But that certainly doesn't constitute a
test for what is hostile and abusive."

Kupchella said appealing to the executive committee "does seem
a bit futile," since that was the group that came up with the list
of 18 schools barred from using Indian mascots, logos and
nicknames. A final option within the NCAA would be an appeal to its
council of presidents.

The school also is considering a lawsuit against the NCAA,
Kupchella said.

"It's too speculative at this point," he said. "We'll have to
see how this plays out before we actually chart that course."

Tom Buning, the first-year UND athletic director who has been
thrust into the nickname controversy, said he views the ruling as a
challenge, not a disappointment.

"Clearly we have to throw it on the table that we're not as
wrong as the NCAA says we are," Buning said. "But on the other
hand, we've got to also say we're not as perfect as we think we
are, because for some reason, somehow, folks are not happy."

Kupchella said he expected the state Board of Higher Education
to join the fight if all appeals to the NCAA are exhausted.

Don Canton, a spokesman for Gov. John Hoeven, said the governor
believes the NCAA may be "taking an inconsistent approach" in
handling nickname appeals.

"At this point, it's up to the university system to determine
how they want to proceed," Canton said.

The higher ed board, whose voting members are appointed by the
governor, oversees North Dakota's 11 public colleges and

Lucy Ganje, a UND art professor who has led protests of the
nickname, said the school's money would be better served toward
promoting a new nickname rather than a lawsuit. She said UND has
become synonymous with racism because of the logo and nickname.

"This is our Confederate flag," said Ganje, who wore a
"People Not Logos" button to Kupchella's press conference.

The NCAA got it "part right" by allowing UND to host the
regional hockey tournament on March 24-25 without making changes,
Kupchella said.

"I can get really cynical and say it's OK to be hostile and
abusive for another six months," the UND president said.

Leigh Jeonette, UND's director of American Indian student
services, said the NCAA ruling was "a step in the right
direction." He said there could be a solution that includes
keeping the nickname.

"My guess is, there are definitely some things that could be
done with a process of this nature," he said. "I don't want to
speculate on what that might be."

David Gipp, president of the United Tribes Technical College in
Bismarck, called the decision "the right thing, the correct thing,
the ethical and the moral thing to do."

The university should now take the step of getting rid of the
nickname and logo entirely, Gipp said in a telephone interview.

"It allows the University of North Dakota to begin to make the
transition that is necessary," he said. "This is something that
begins to set the road straight ... This begins to right the wrongs
of history."

UND and other schools appealed to the NCAA after last month's
ruling against 18 schools. The NCAA quickly granted exemptions to
the Florida State Seminoles, the Utah Utes and the Central Michigan
Chippewas, citing agreements the schools had with local tribes to
use the nicknames.

However, an NCAA staff review committee declined to give UND a
similar exemption Wednesday, pointing out that the school's
nickname and logo have opposition from the three Sioux tribes with
reservation land in North Dakota.

The Standing Rock Sioux and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux both
clearly opposed "the university's use of the 'Fighting Sioux'
nickname and imagery," Bernard Franklin, an NCAA senior vice
president, said in a statement Wednesday.

The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe has made statements both favoring
and opposing the nickname and logo. Franklin said the NCAA was
unsuccessful in getting a clarification.

The board of United Tribes, which includes representatives of
the five American Indian tribes in North Dakota, also unanimously
approved a resolution supporting the NCAA ban.

Kupchella said he wasn't surprised by the decision because the
NCAA "made everybody mad" by getting involved in the issue and
then granting three exemptions.

"Before we took the call today ... it was pretty much agreed
that they're going to have to deal with this in some direct way
sooner or later," Kupchella said. "Since we're a medium-sized to
small school, why not us?"

Franklin's statement said the tribes' position "must be
respected, even when others may not agree."

"Although the University of North Dakota maintained that its
logo and nickname are used with consummate respect, the position of
the namesake tribes and those affected by the hostile or abusive
environment that the nickname and logo create take precedence," he

Jeonette said he believes that UND tries to use the name in a
respectful manner, but "the biggest problem is how do you convince
that of the opposing team?" he said.