BISMARCK, N.D. — A new state law requiring the University of North Dakota to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname won’t shield the school from penalties for continuing to use a moniker the NCAA considers hostile to American Indians, an NCAA executive told the school Tuesday.
The law, which says UND must use the nickname and a logo featuring the profile of an American Indian warrior, “cannot change the NCAA policy” against using American Indian nicknames, logos or mascots that are considered offensive, said Bernard Franklin, an NCAA executive vice president.
In a letter to UND President Robert Kelley, Franklin said the university must follow an agreement it made in October 2007 to discontinue using the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011, unless it received approval from North Dakota’s Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.
Spirit Lake tribal members endorsed the nickname and logo in a referendum, and the tribe’s governing council followed. The Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal council, which has long opposed the nickname, has declined to change its stand.
The letter means UND will be subject to NCAA sanctions after the new law takes effect in August. The school will be barred from hosting NCAA postseason sporting events, and its teams will not be able to wear the nickname and logo on its uniforms in postseason contests.
Supporters of the “Fighting Sioux law” had argued it could prompt the college athletics association to rethink its position on the nickname and logo. Franklin’s letter includes no hint that will happen.
“Unfortunately, [the law] cannot change the NCAA policy nor alter the contracted terms of the agreement,” Franklin said.
The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the Republican majority leader in the North Dakota House, was approved in the House and Senate overwhelmingly. It was signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple last month a few hours after it was delivered to his office.
The earlier agreement settled a lawsuit UND filed against the NCAA, challenging the process the association used in determining the logo and Fighting Sioux nickname were hostile to American Indians.
UND was among a group of 18 schools singled out for using allegedly disparaging nicknames, logos and mascots when the NCAA first announced in 2005 that it would push member colleges to get rid of them.