The debate over whether the University of North Dakota keeps its Fighting Sioux nickname has embroiled other universities, the Big Sky athletic conference, and even the North Dakota state government. The university's self-imposed deadline to change the name is Aug. 15, but the state government's lawmaking body has complicated things, according to the Associated Press:
But state lawmakers intervened earlier this year, passing a law that requires the university to retain the moniker and logo. If the school keeps them past the Aug. 15 deadline, it will not be allowed to use them in postseason tournaments nor host any such events.
Potentially more damaging, the Big Sky Conference, which UND hopes to join next year, has said the issue will complicate the school's conference membership and some schools may refuse to schedule games with North Dakota. Some believe that would lead to a broad decline in athletics.
Unlike the Florida State Seminoles, UND hasn't gotten approval from the local Sioux tribes, so it must accord with the NCAA's 2005 crackdown on nicknames based on Native American tribes. St. John's long ago changed its name from the Red Men to the Red Storm and the Syracuse Orangmen dropped the "men" from their name, but apparently the Fighting Sioux are more of a brand name to UND's state congress than those.
Lawmakers claim they've received hundreds of letters and e-mails from constituents supporting the law, but the NCAA isn't impressed. A meeting between the government, conference and school officials is scheduled for Aug. 12, where school spokesman Peter Johnson told the AP, "we're looking for a final kind of clarity."