Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Hakstol: Nickname law hurts UND

  • Staunch Fighting Sioux nickname supporter says it's time to move on.

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  • A group that wants to save the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname has lost an ally in men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol.
    Hakstol, who had been a staunch nickname supporter, said Wednesday it's time to move on without the nickname and the decades-old controversy. He doesn't believe the NCAA will back down on sanctions against the school, and thinks the Big Sky Conference will dump UND if it uses the nickname. The school has been accepted into the Big Sky for sports other than hockey.
    Hakstol said the hockey team would lose key games against rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin, which won't play UND as long as it is the Fighting Sioux.
    "With all of these factors in mind, I don't see any way that the University of North Dakota can be a fully successful Division I entity across all sports if we continue to mandate by law the use of the Fighting Sioux," Hakstol said.
    "It's no longer a debate on the use of the Fighting Sioux name. It's gone to a different level for that," he said.
    The school has been trying to retire the nickname, which the NCAA has deemed hostile and abusive. The North Dakota Legislature in November repealed a short-lived state law that required UND to keep the moniker, after several state officials failed to convince the NCAA to lift possible sanctions.
    More than 16,000 people signed petitions to put the issue on the June 12 primary election ballot, a move that temporarily restored the nickname. The state Board of Higher Education plans to file a lawsuit to block the vote on whether to restore the nickname law.
    Hakstol's comments came at the same time the group working on two referendums to keep the logo was in Fargo promoting its efforts. One of those supporters, former UND hockey player Frank Burggraf, said he was disappointed by Hakstol's proclamation and indicated the coach was pressured because he hasn't signed a new contract.
    "What would you do?" Burggraf asked. "It's very unfortunate."
    School officials denied Burggraf's assertion.
    "Coach Hakstol's decision to address the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo issue today has absolutely nothing to do with his contract status. Any assertion to the contrary is flat-out false," school spokesman Jayson Hajdu said.
    Hakstol is the second prominent school figure to come out against keeping the nickname. Tim O'Keefe, executive vice president and CEO of the UND Alumni Association and UND Foundation, said he regretted not speaking out earlier and said he's "completely opposed" the petition drives.
    Burggraf said he has received numerous emails and phone calls from UND graduates who are unhappy with O'Keefe's stance.
    Page 2 of 2 - "The leader of our — quote — alumni does not speak for all our alumni, I can tell you that," Burggraf said.
    Burggraf and other supporters of the campaign said Wednesday that the logo has not hurt UND or the NCAA, and pledged to carry on with collecting signatures for a second referendum that would change the North Dakota Constitution to say UND teams will always be known as the Fighting Sioux.
    "We challenge these statements about the harm the Fighting Sioux name and symbol bring to UND," said John Chaske, an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe and chairman of the pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect. "It would appear to us that someone is holding these student-athletes hostages for their own purposes and against its own stated policies."
    Chaske said he believes the NCAA will change its mind but acknowledged he has no evidence to back that claim. "I can say they are going to look at it in a different light once they realize how many North Dakota citizens support the name," he said of NCAA officials.
    Should that fail, Chaske said, the group will continue to back a lawsuit filed by members of the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes that seeks a reversal of the NCAA policy banning use of certain American Indian imagery.
    "We're in this for the long haul," Chaske said.