NCAA backs off on stripping of logo from RalphIf no longer “home of the Fighting Sioux,” Ralph Engelstad Arena will remain home base for Fighting Sioux history and imagery for some time. In what’s likely a final round of negotiations over the University of North Dakota’s historic but much-disputed nickname, the NCAA has backed off its demand for wholesale stripping of the name and associated Indian head logo from the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
By: By Chuck Haga , Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
If no longer “home of the Fighting Sioux,” Ralph Engelstad Arena will remain home base for Fighting Sioux history and imagery for some time.
In what’s likely a final round of negotiations over the University of North Dakota’s historic but much-disputed nickname, the NCAA has backed off its demand for wholesale stripping of the name and associated Indian head logo from the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The NCAA “agreed to let just about everything stay at the arena,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.
Stenehjem, who negotiated the new addendum to the 2007 settlement agreement that ended North Dakota’s lawsuit against the NCAA, outlined the changes Wednesday during an executive session of the State Board of Higher Education in Bismarck.
The NCAA agreed to the changes after one of its top officials, Vice President Bernard Franklin, visited Grand Forks Aug. 20 and toured the REA with Stenehjem, UND President Robert Kelley, REA General Manager Jody Hodgson and Earl Strinden, who as leader of the UND Alumni Association had helped to arrange the late Ralph Engelstad’s gift of the palatial arena.
Stenehjem had sued the NCAA on behalf of UND, the state and the higher education board after the athletics association adopted a policy in 2005 seeking to eliminate the use of American Indian names, mascots and imagery by member schools.
Duaine Espegard, Grand Forks, president of the State Board, applauded Stenehjem’s “diligence” in negotiating this final piece of the long-running dispute. So did Kelley, who attended Wednesday’s board meeting.
“It’s nice to have clarity, to know what has to be done and what doesn’t have to be done,” Kelley said. “I think Dr. Franklin carried back (to the NCAA) the message that the university needed to move forward and had done everything we possibly could to comply and move on.”
In the original 2007 settlement, the NCAA agreed to allow the state two years to win namesake approval for use of the nickname from the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes. Spirit Lake gave its consent through a referendum and Tribal Council resolution, but Standing Rock’s council adopted a resolution affirming its longstanding opposition to the nickname and declined to arrange a referendum.
The settlement agreement also had specified changes necessary at the $100 million REA and the adjacent Betty Engelstad Sioux Center for those facilities to be acceptable host sites for NCAA championship events.
While many features deemed of historic or architectural significance had been exempted, other provisions of the original settlement would have required UND to replace flooring, carpets, seating and other items displaying the “Fighting Sioux” logo and Native American imagery before the end of this year.
The new addendum requires removal of large signs on the outside of the REA that say “Home of the Fighting Sioux” as soon as possible, Stenehjem said, and replacement of the logo carpeting as it wears out.
The “Home of the Fighting Sioux” signs are not accurate, Stenehjem said, “because it isn’t the home of the Fighting Sioux anymore since the State Board retired the name.”
He said it will be “up to the managers of the arena how quickly they can do it, and they will have to decide what they replace it with, ‘Home of UND Hockey’ or ‘Home of Champions’ or whatever.”
The other items covered by the addendum “include some of the more controversial things, including the logos at the end of seat rows, the brass etched standards along railings and the carpet on the suite level, which can stay (until) it wears out.”
“Every one of those items was a source of great contention” during the initial settlement negotiations, Stenehjem said.
The board endorsed the addendum by a unanimous vote, he said, and he outlined the changes to state legislative leaders and others who had been involved in talks with the NCAA, “and they are all very pleased.”
Once the outside signs are removed, the arena will be in compliance with NCAA policies and UND would be entitled to host championship events in the two facilities, he said.
The NCAA also will remove UND from the list of offending schools deemed to be using hostile or abusive names and imagery.
Stenehjem said the revised agreement with the NCAA also allows the REA “to move forward with plans to create a commemorative wall within the facility depicting the history of the Sioux Nation and its contributions to the state.”
Hodgson said he will review the addendum with members of the REA board next week. “We’ve worked closely with the NCAA and the attorney general in recent weeks,” he said, but he declined to comment on provisions of the addendum until board members review them.
The NCAA’s willingness to reconsider the presence of the name and logo at REA was the one concession the association made in August 2011, when Stenehjem and Gov. Jack Dalrymple led a delegation of state officials to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
The delegation, which included state House and Senate leaders and the presidents of UND and the State Board of Higher Education, hoped to persuade the NCAA to back off its requirement that UND drop the nickname to avoid sanctions.
The state leaders were armed with a new law, adopted with big majorities by the Legislature, requiring UND to keep the nickname. When the NCAA refused to budge, state leaders conceded defeat, and the law was repealed in November. A petition drive by nickname supporters put the issue on the June ballot, but state voters decisively rejected it.
Nickname backers at Spirit Lake, undeterred by the lopsided June vote, continue to circulate petitions for an initiated measure to enshrine the Fighting Sioux nickname in the state Constitution. That vote likely would not come until June 2014.
Stenehjem said he was “pleased that the NCAA was willing to show flexibility in its policy.”
He said Franklin and other NCAA officials were “impressed with the efforts of the university, the Board of Higher Education and the state to move ahead on the issue.”
He said the June vote “also helped persuade the NCAA that the change in the agreement was in everyone’s best interest.”