clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

North Dakota took years to come up with a new team name and the best they could do was 'Fighting Hawks'

After several years, North Dakota has finally turned down a bunch of unique nicknames to be known as the 'Fighting Hawks.'

Since 2012, North Dakota's athletic teams have been the North Dakota _______. The team had been the Fighting Sioux since the 1930s, but the NCAA threatened to ban the team from postseason play after the school failed to get the approval of the state's Sioux tribes, and a 2012 referendum retired the Sioux name. That referendum prohibited the team from finding a new name before 2015, and since, they've been nameless.

The process of selecting a new name began this year. In April, the school began soliciting names from fans. They received thousands upon thousands of entries, some of which were serious, and some of which were not very serious. By July, they had narrowed this list down to five.


Dope! A sundog is a rare weather phenomenon caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere at northern latitudes. Also, "sundog" is a dope word.


Dope! "North Dakota North Stars" is a bit clunky, but "North Stars" is a great name that's been sadly unused since the Minnesota hockey team went to Dallas. ND's strong hockey program could revive it.


Dope! North Dakota gives out the "Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award" to prominent North Dakotans. It's unique, it's regional and it's rugged as hell. And they would've had DMX's endorsement for life.


The worst one yet, because it doesn't really mean anything, but still, unique.


Just typing these two words next to each other made me yawn.

In October, the list was narrowed down to just those final three. It was disconcerting that two of the three least interesting names made it to the final ballot, but there was still hope for Roughriders.

Nodaks was eliminated, and there was a final runoff vote between Roughriders -- a good name -- and Fighting Hawks -- a boring name -- and Wednesday, the result was announced:

"Fighting Hawks" won an online poll, and starting immediately, North Dakota teams are the "Fighting Hawks." Long story short: North Dakota spent a ton of time and money to come up with a name that required no thought whatsoever.

Good sports team nicknames are about individuality. They celebrate the unique aspects of a place and the sports team that represents it. They might sound silly, but words like "Longhorn" or "Cornhusker" or "Hoosier" or even "Chanticleer" become iconic. They become part of the lives of the people who cheer for the team. Over decades, this became true for "Fighting Sioux," so much so that people fought to keep the name even when accused of cultural insensitivity and faced with NCAA punishments.

The disappointing thing is North Dakota had several cool, unique options, and they went with one we could've picked out of a hat.