Nicknames are how we identify with a school’s athletic teams. In some cases you don’t need to hear the name of the school along with the nickname to know who is being talked about. Say “The Trojans take the field” and most immediately think of USC. When the Buckeyes are mentioned Ohio State generally comes to mind. When someone says “the Wolverines” the ears of Michigan fans perk up. This past Saturday the University of North Dakota men’s basketball team took the floor against Kansas for the last time as the Fighting Sioux.
Beginning Sunday, all of UND’s athletic teams simply will be known as the University of North Dakota. No mascot. No nickname. And, really, only part of its 81-year identity.
UND’s mascot — originally the Sioux in 1930 and changed to Fighting Sioux during the 1960s — has come into question because of its tie to the various Native American tribes of the Sioux nation. For years, athletic teams at all levels have been involved in legal battles regarding the use of Native American mascots and nicknames, with many going as far as to change them to end the squabbling. Despite documented support from several Sioux leaders, that’s what UND is doing here in an effort to appease the NCAA, which officially has dubbed the nickname — and others like it — offensive.
Having the support of state lawmakers, who even considered amending the North Dakota state constitution allowing UND to keep the name, wasn’t enough as the NCAA won out. Had the school continued to use the name it could have been penalized by the NCAA putting in jeopardy the ability to host postseason competition.
The University of North Dakota isn’t the first to have to let go of a nickname and certainly won’t be the last. Stanford University used to have an Indian mascot before becoming the Cardinal we are now accustomed to. The University of Miami (OH) was nicknamed the Redskins until the school’s Board of Trustees voted to discontinue using it in 1996. Miami is now known as the RedHawks. The feathers in the logo of the College of William & Mary Tribe were deemed offensive by the NCAA until the school changed its mascot to a Griffin.
Per the NY Times the University of North Dakota’s varsity athletic teams will not have a nickname or corresponding logo until atleast January 1, 2015.