GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The University of Minnesota's athletic
director said the school won't play the University of North Dakota
in any sport except men's and women's hockey because of UND's
Fighting Sioux nickname.
Athletic Director Joel Maturi said the school's Advisory
Committee on Athletics approved a policy in 2003 that discourages
games with teams using American Indian mascots and nicknames. The
policy has not been strictly enforced, but it will be now, Maturi
UND athletic director Tom Buning said he called Maturi last
week, after some UND coaches were turned down in scheduling
requests with University of Minnesota teams.
"Some coaches were getting confusing stories, and they were
trying to figure out what had changed," Buning said. "One day
they were well along the way to putting together some competitions,
and the next conversation or e-mail said, 'My boss at the board
says we won't be able to play you."'
Maturi said he asked the advisory committee last month to loosen
the policy so Minnesota could play UND regularly in several sports.
Instead, he said, the committee decided to bar the Golden Gophers
from playing UND in any sport except hockey, where the two teams
already are in the same league.
"I went to the committee, quite frankly, asking them for a more
permissive interpretation of the policy," Maturi said, "with the
realization that schools like UND are moving to Division I. And I
felt it was a good opportunity for Minnesota, as well as for UND,
to possibly play quite regularly in games other than hockey."
The advisory committee's chairwoman, Melissa Avery, said the
anti-discrimination policy was reaffirmed at the Nov. 2 meeting but
said she did not recall specifics. She said scheduling decisions
ultimately are made by the athletic director.
Maturi said the policy will not affect other schools in the
University of Minnesota system, such as Crookston and Duluth, which
regularly compete against UND.
UND and Minnesota are rivals in hockey, but the schools have not
played each other in men's basketball since 1983. Other than an
exhibition game two seasons ago, UND's women's basketball team has
not played Minnesota since 1985.
Buning said Minnesota's decision would not change UND's plans to
move to NCAA Division I in 2008.
"It's fair to say they're a school we'd like to play," he
said. "It's unfortunate student athletes will be denied that
Maturi said he also regrets the situation.
"I understand the policy, and I understand the procedure," he
said. "I feel bad because I think the kids are the ones who will
be negatively affected."
At least two other Big Ten schools -- the University of Wisconsin
and the University of Iowa -- have policies stating the schools will
not play teams with American Indian mascots unless contract or
conference obligations require them to do so.
UND is one of several schools using American Indian imagery that
the NCAA has labeled "hostile and abusive." UND is suing the NCAA
over its decision to ban the team from displaying its Fighting
Sioux logo in postseason play. The ban is on hold pending the
trial, which is tentatively set for December.
Stricter enforcement of Minnesota's policy could hurt UND
financially in its transition to Division I. NCAA Division I-A
football schools, such as Minnesota, generally guarantee opponents
between $125,000 and $400,000 per game, coaches said.
North Dakota State University made the move to Division I
athletics in 2004. In October, the school received $275,000 to play
Jim Antes, a member of UND's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee,
said he worries UND's continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname
is "closing doors" for the school.
"There are good reasons other than these not to have the
nickname," he said. "But this is an additional reason."