NDSU president critical of Summit League commissioner on UND nicknameIt was January 2011 when Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said it was University of North Dakota officials, not the league, who asked that retirement of the Fighting Sioux moniker be required for league membership.
By: By Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — It was January 2011 when Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said it was University of North Dakota officials, not the league, who asked that retirement of the Fighting Sioux moniker be required for league membership.
Douple’s comment kicked up a dust-storm in an already stormy debate: Could UND officials themselves be crafting a narrative that would cause even ardent nickname supporters to abandon their cause?
UND President Robert Kelley adamantly denied Douple’s claim, and Douple never spoke about it again.
But it turns out UND had another ally in the dustup: North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani.
Unlike UND, NDSU is a member of the Summit League and, by virtue of that standing, Bresciani was one of 10 university presidents that annually and anonymously review Douple’s performance as a commissioner.
Last summer at this time, Bresciani was apparently the only president to ding Douple on an issue, writing that Douple brought “media attention to himself,” among other things.
When asked this week about last summer’s evaluation of Douple, Bresciani said his criticism was driven by Douple publicly weighing in on the UND nickname matter.
“It was during the heated exchange with the UND logo and he (Douple) got involved,” Bresciani said. “I don’t see why he got involved. I was trying to protect UND a little bit.”
Bresciani said he thought UND was getting beat up over the NCAA’s mandate that the school either get permission from the tribes to use the Fighting Sioux nickname or retire it.
“It was not a big deal. I think he’s doing a good job,” Bresciani said of Douple this week.
Bresciani, in his annual review of Douple a year ago, said Douple brought “media attention to himself,” according to an email exchange between Douple and Michael Benson, president at Southern Utah University.
The emails, first disclosed by the North Dakota political website SayAnything Blog.com, also quote Bresciani in his review of Douple as somebody who “knows very little about my staff” and doesn’t “have a sense of vision and direction.”
The “vision and direction” and the “knowledge of the staff” references, Bresciani said this week, refers to himself, because he was new to the league and wasn’t familiar with it. Bresciani just completed his second year at NDSU.
The emails reveal an inside look at an exchange between Benson and Douple in which Douple was trying to determine which president criticized his performance. Reviews by each Summit president are confidential and known only to the Chair of the Presidents Council, who at the time was Benson.
“I reviewed the individual review forms you gave me and there is one president who had a number of comments,” Douple wrote Benson in an email dated June 21, 2011. “Clearly I need to do a better job of communication with this president.”
Benson replied: “You bet, Tom, I’ll have to go back and see who it was. I honestly don’t remember. If I were a betting man, I would say it’s Wartell. He’s always the contrarian.”
That was in reference to Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne Chancellor Michael Wartell.
Benson replied the following day, writing, “Tom: Dean from NDSU but you did not hear this from me.”
“Thanks,” Douple responded. “That is who I suspected, I was the spokesperson for the league on the logo issue with UND and it got a lot of coverage in North Dakota. I will also need to bring him up to date on our Summit Plan strategic planning efforts. Will work on those issues. Thanks again.”
Benson, when contacted this week, said in an emailed statement that he couldn’t remember what the issue was with NDSU.
“Regardless, Commissioner Douple got a very strong recommendation from the Council. I do remember that much,” Benson said.
A year later, that recommendation still stands. The Summit’s Presidents Council announced Wednesday to extend the contract of Douple through 2017.
Bresciani also praised Douple, saying, “Under his leadership, the Summit is doing a lot more in the past year.”
UND ultimately joined the Big Sky Conference, just a few days after declining a Summit invite for a site visit. Douple has also moved on from the UND-Summit tussle.
Asked about Bresciani’s review of a year ago, Douple said through an assistant: “No comment.”
Jeff Kolpack is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.