As is being widely reported, the N.D. State Board of Higher Education is meeting tomorrow to decide whether to approve a proposed settlement with the NCAA over the “Fighting Sioux” nickname.
In short, reports are that the settlement would give UND three years to continue to use the “Fighting Sioux” name without penalty. By the end of that three years, UND will need to either secure the support of Sioux tribes or change the name. Fan reaction has been… less than positive.
A few thoughts:
The State’s willingness to accept this settlement might indicate that it sees the only likely outcome of the trial and the NCAA’s post-trial maneuvers as being forced to either get tribal approval or change the name. If true, whichever of those two outcomes it thought likely, this settlement is a good one.
Those three years would be useful in a few ways:
- The tribes could no longer feign disinterest — the burden is shifted to them to either explicitly declare support for the name or implicitly demonstrate lack of support; if the name is changed, it will specifically be because they did not support it. If polls about the support for the nickname among tribal members are to be believed, there could be significant pressure on tribal leaders to reflect the will of their constituents. Further, the immediate need for UND to have hurried dialogs to pressure tribes into an emergency resolution is abated.
- If UND will have to change the name, the three year period provides useful “cooling off” for the school. Fans and alums will have a few years to adjust to and accept the coming change, while hopefully not being driven away or alienated by an immediate change. A generation of students will graduate and new classes will come in, aware of the impending change.
- UND will have ample time to engage its constituents in any potential change. No need to hastily rush into something they’d regret.
A few upset fans on the message boards think this settlement would be the State giving up mid-fight. That would be true if UND had really been fighting to overthrow the NCAA’s restrictions in court, tribal opinions be damned. However, if UND never saw keeping the name without tribal approval as a realistic possibility, they may have just bought themselves a three year continuance to gain that approval or prepare for the change.