Sioux fans rally behind one of their own

While Internet forums are sometimes (rightfully) thought of as untamed jungles into which only the thickest of skin dare tread, they also foster a strong community among distant strangers brought together by a common tie.

Over the past week, the community rallied behind a 14 year-old Sioux fan in the Twin Cities who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

Nick and PSB with the new dishIn addition to visiting his Caring Bridge site to drop notes of well wishes, fans proposed chipping in to buy his family an over-the-air satellite dish so he could watch all the Sioux games for free while recovering.

Enough Sioux fans, none of whom knew each other or Nick, offered to chip in that the plan was surely becoming a reality. When a Sioux fan contacted a satellite dish installer who frequents the forum (and who has installed dishes for countless other forum denizens) to arrange the details, “PSB” was happy not only to perform the installation, but to donate the entire system himself.

There’s not much I can add to the story, other than to tell you to check it out yourself:
“14 y/o Sioux Fan diagnosed with leukemia, Nick Cherekos from Osseo, MN” thread
Nicholas Cherekos Caring Bridge guestbook

Lennon leaves and the foolish blame game begins

This whole “it must be somebody’s fault that Dale Lennon left” line is total bunk. Yesterday on KFAN, Scott Swygman and Wayne Nelson of the Grand Forks Herald said it wasn’t widely known, but other schools had taken serious looks at Lennon and he’d taken serious looks at them.

Quite obviously, UND’s head football coach was considering better opportunities for some time. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. Anyone with an ounce of sense should have understood that the moment Lennon won a national championship in 2001, there was a chance that he’d be offered a job he couldn’t refuse. Frankly, I think UND was extremely fortunate to have had a coach of his caliber here for so long.

But there were some who claimed that if not for former UND athletic director Tom Buning, Lennon would stay at UND for his entire coaching career. The university got rid of Buning and Lennon left anyway. So much for the accuracy of “inside” information.  The idea that a witch hunt should be conducted to purge the university of those responsible for Lennon’s departure is simply ridiculous.

The fact is, UND bent over backward to create a situation that would help keep Lennon here and it wasn’t enough. Until UND joins the ranks of the top dogs in college football, there will always be schools that can offer its coaches more money and better situations. It’s just a fact of life. It’s no single person’s fault.

When a coach as competent and as popular as Lennon leaves, it’s probably natural that the finger pointing and blame game takes place. But it’s unseemly, counter productive and childish.

Lennon is gone and publicly leveling accusations against certain individuals at UND isn’t going to change that. It’s time to get over it, move on and set the stage for UND’s next football coach to successfully transition the program to the next level. Public backbiting and infighting serves no useful purpose, a lesson Fighting Sioux fans should have learned from recent experience.

Nokota: State horse would make ideal nickname

The University of North Dakota might soon need to replace the venerable Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. Why not use the official state horse, the Nokota, as the basis for a new nickname and logo? UND could become the Wild Nokotas or the Fighting Nokotas (or whatever adjective is appropriate).

Here are the reasons I believe the Nokota would make an outstanding new nickname for UND:

  1. The Nokota is an athletic horse known for its intelligence, independence, strength, stamina and ability to survive in harsh conditions. Therefore, the Nokota is the ideal symbol for a North Dakota-based athletic team.
  2. The name “Nokota” is a combination of the words “North” and “Dakota,” the name of the state and the university.
  3. The Nokota horse is unique to North Dakota. It’s not likely that any other university would use or adopt this name.
  4. The Nokota horse is indelibly linked to the state’s history, especially to some of the territory’s earliest and most famous inhabitants.
  5. The Nokota is already officially recognized as North Dakota’s state horse. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the state’s flagship university to adopt the Nokota as the symbol of its athletic teams.
  6. Representing the people of North Dakota, the Nokota is a symbol in which everyone can take pride.
  7. The potential to develop a strong, striking logo and marketing themes based on the Nokota are nearly limitless.
  8. It’s likely that if UND changes its nickname, the vestiges of the old Fighting Sioux logo will remain in Ralph Engelstad Arena. A Nokota logo would not look incongruous next to the Fighting Sioux logo.

I encourage Sioux fans to visit the Nokota Horse Conservancy website to read about the Nokota breed and learn more about the efforts to preserve it. Any increased public exposure the Nokota receives could help raise awareness and assist in the effort to preserve an important part of North Dakota’s past.

UND’s hockey team is known nationwide and its other athletic teams will soon be competing on a national stage in NCAA Division I athletics. By adopting the Nokota horse as a nickname and logo, UND would get a terrific new identity and the efforts to preserve the Nokota horse would receive a boost.

For Your Consideration: The Emeralds

Introducing The University of North Dakota Emeralds. The Emeralds. The UND Emeralds.

Let me be clear about something. I believe discussions and conversations about the Fighting Sioux nickname should continue between UND and leaders of the namesake tribes, but I also feel that it is wise to explore other possibilities, in the interest of generating public support for one or more new nickname ideas.

It is in that context that I offer for your consideration The Emeralds.

Any new name must pass muster in a number of different areas to make a final list. The guidelines which follow come directly from the task force charged with finding a new nickname at Arkansas State University. I’m not suggesting that the University of North Dakota will work under the same exact framework, but at this stage guidelines such as these will inform and direct our discussion.

The name selected must not conflict with the school colors.
This name fares very strongly here. The Emerald name would enhance the strong connection between UND and the color green.

The name selected must be suitable for use with both men’s and women’s teams (non-gender specific).

The name selected should not be one that invites derision, humor or double meaning.
Aside from the fact that emeralds are considered brittle, I couldn’t think of anything else to include here.

The name selected should be one that will stand the test of time.
As the 55th anniversary theme, I think it’s safe to say that emeralds are a symbol of longevity.

The name selected should be one that suggests pride, courage and a strong competitive spirit and one that inspires the creation of effective imagery and logos for use in promotion and marketing efforts.
I’m not sure about pride, courage, and competitive spirit. An emerald is typically something one would be proud to own or wear. Admittedly, the name Emeralds does not fare well on this particular issue.

In terms of effective imagery and logos, I feel it passes the test. The emerald can be effectively combined with the existing crossed “ND” logo or on its own as a primary or secondary logo . The marketing possibilities are nearly endless. The club sections can be the Emerald Isle, we could call Grand Forks (unofficially) the Emerald City, and fans 55 and older could belong to the Emerald Club.

The name selected will be distinctive and, if possible, unique to our conference, region and nation.
Distinctive, yes. It immediately evokes the color green, which many would argue must remain in any new nickname and logo design. It doesn’t make one think of North Dakota, but it is unique to our conference and region. There is an Emerald Bowl in the BCS (formerly 1-A),  but I found no collegiate or professional team with the “Emerald” nickname.

I recognize that no one name will resonate with all interested parties, and I expect that this idea will be no different. Please feel free to comment, dissect, offer alternatives, or avoid the discussion altogether. It’s up to you.

Lakers Vs. Sioux VI

Well, Jim wanted to get an opinion of a Grand Valley State University Laker fan on the upcoming football game between GVSU and UND, and just general thoughts on the quick little rivalry, and well, I figured I might as well give it a shot.  All in all, it has been a flat out blast playing you guys and it’s just not going to be the same next year looking at the playoff brackets without North Dakota in the mix.  So, here are some thoughts on some of our past matchups, and a little look back at it all. 

Sure the 2001 NC game really hurt for us when we’re up with like a minute left and then GV blitzes and misses that tackle that lets the Sioux make that long gain in which leads to the go ahead score for the Sioux.  That really sucked, and well, they would pull my GVSU fan card if I didn’t mention the fact that if Curt Anes was healthy, the Lakers would have put up a lot more points on the Sioux defense that day. 

2003, now that was a game there.  Back and forth all day, and us poor Laker fans having visions of 2001 running through our minds on that last UND drive.  Luck for us, we get that interception to seal the win that year. 

2004, Well, this is the year when I started to have a low opinion of the NCAA when they shifted the GLIAC west into the Northwest region along with the NCC.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this rivalry, is that they’re all a bunch of bums and idiots down there in Indianapolis.  I could say worse about them, but I’m sure you all have an even lower opinion of them than what I do.  With that shift, it ruined a great possible championship game matchup and left it at best, a regional final game.  Not what this matchup deserves, but eh, I guess we were spoiled in just meeting up twice in Alabama now weren’t we?  Still, it was a pretty close game, with the Sioux getting the better of the Lakers that time.

2005 and 2006, The Sioux travel to Lubbers both times and well, now it’s pretty well established that post season matchups between our two schools are destine to happen for as long as both of us are in Division Two.  The Lakers managed to get the better of the Sioux both times out on the icy windswept field of Lubbers stadium, but they were both games were everybody’s mettle was tested.  No sissy paddy cake games like what some other regions are like.  Both were some hard hitting games where the snot was sent flying on both sides and a few players wanting to get a license plate number of that truck that hit them. 

And so, it brings us to 2007.  And well, as I’m sure you’re all aware of, it will be the last time the Lakers and Sioux will have this donnybrook in the playoffs.  The Sioux will be moving on to D1, and well, us here in Laker land will be sad to see you guys go.  But for the Sioux, it’s a wise move for them, given your facilities, fan base, and general support you guys have in North Dakota.  Plus, that Ag College to the south going up to D1 did put a lot of pressure on UND to move up.  All in all, you guys will be missed by Division Two.  You guys were a great example of what D2 should be.  UND has been great competition for GVSU and made the Lakers raise their game up.

For those of you that do make it to the game, I’ll see you out at the Tailgater before the game.  Just ask around in the Irwin Lot for the one they call the Monster.  For those of you unable to make it, you’ll probably get to see me on TV. 

Two swings and two misses

If it’s true that hell has no fury like a woman scorned, then recent events show that a scorned media runs a close second.

The Fargo Forum took a tawdry cheap-shot at Grand Forks District Judge Lawrence Jahnke for a ruling he made in North Dakota’s lawsuit against the NCAA. The Grand Forks Herald singled out UND’s administration in general and Phil Harmeson, vice president for general administration, in particular for “obsessive secrecy” regarding athletic director Tom Buning’s resignation. In both cases, the media’s ire is off target.

Judge Jahnke’s ruling to keep the documents sealed in the lawsuit against the NCAA was immediately followed by a front-page story in the Forum about the judge’s membership in UND’s Golden Feather Club in the early 60s when he attended the university as an undergraduate. The newspaper also ran an editorial cartoon showing Jahnke with “Go Sioux!” written across the back of his judicial robes.

While I agreed with the Forum’s position that the records should have been open to the public, portraying Jahnke as a closet Sioux fan was an obvious low blow. It would have been different if UND and the state had supported closing the records, but the exact opposite was true. It was the NCAA that fought to keep them sealed. Therefore, tarring Jahnke with the brush of favoritism doesn’t even make sense, but that didn’t stop the Forum from extracting its pound of flesh for a ruling that went against the media.

In the case of Buning’s resignation, I agree that there were mistakes made, but they came from many different quarters, beginning with Buning himself. Both the Herald and the Forum have criticized UND’s administration for the paucity of information released regarding the events surrounding Buning’s departure. Such criticism is, at best, disingenuous.

It didn’t take much of a sleuth to deduce that North Dakota University System employee privacy policy and the federal Family Medical Leave Act prevented UND from providing an explanation for Buning’s sudden absence. UND’s administration couldn’t say anything without violating state policy and federal law on employee privacy rights.

 Yes, it’s disconcerting to not know how a public institution is handling turmoil with a high-profile position such as the athletic director. Again, my preference is for openness, especially where my tax dollars and my children’s education are involved.  However, the Herald does its readers, UND and itself a disservice by failing to even mention the primary reason for the secrecy surrounding Buning’s sudden departure.

 Would the media have approved if UND had violated Buning’s privacy rights? I doubt it. And how is it that the one person who could have explained what was happening and why – Buning – escapes all criticism in the Herald’s editorial?

This is not to absolve UND’s administration of responsibility for the mistakes it made in handling the Buning situation. The greatest error was in not publicly addressing problems in the athletic department when they first came to light. But even if that had happened, it’s entirely possible that the outcome would have been the same.

Any objective analysis of events would reveal a variety of factors that played roles in the less-than-satisfactory resolution of Buning’s tenure at UND. Some of them were of his making, some came from outside influences and some came from within UND.

So while I understand the media’s disdain for secrecy at public institutions and its desire to discourage secretive behavior by public officials, I also know that it has powerful remedies at its disposal, such as appealing Jahnke’s ruling to the North Dakota Supreme Court and using the state open records law.

Unfairly labeling and scapegoating people trying to do their jobs under difficult conditions only serves to foster distrust and discourage the very openness and cooperation the media claims to desire.

“Fighting Sioux” settlement agreed to by both parties

The settlement agreement is signed.

Here are the highlights:

  • UND has until November 30, 2010, to obtain namesake approval for its nickname and imagery
  • Approval is only of the form of affirmative support from both the Standing Rock Tribe and Spirit Lake Tribe
  • The NCAA pledges not to contact any Sioux tribes with any attempts to influence them to provide or not to provide support for UND
  • The Spirit Lake Tribe’s 2000 resolution is recognized and will count, but only if an individual authorized to speak on behalf of the tribe affirmatively supports UND’s current use of the nickname and imagery
  • The Standing Rock Tribe’s support must come in the form of a written resolution of approval adopted by any means authorized by Standing Rock’s Constitution
  • Absent namesake approval, UND will announce a a transition to a new nickname within 30 days
  • Such a transition must be accomplished by Aug. 15, 2011
  • If the name is changed, imagery must be removed from any venue used to host an NCAA championship except: historical images, images embedded in architecture, items which will ultimately be replaced because of wear and tear.
  • The NCAA will issue a statement to its members that application of its nickname policy to UND has been suspended, and that no institution should use it as a factor in regular season scheduling against UND
  • If UND is removed from the list of institutions subject to the policy, it will be allowed to play regular season contests at venues it does not own that have not complied with the policy (venues it owns must comply with the policy, and championships will not be hosted at non-owned venues which do not comply)
  • The NCAA will issue a statement that it recognizes UND is a leading institution in educating Native Americans and that it did not make any specific findings about a hostile or abusive environment on UND’s campus.

“Fighting Sioux” nickname settlement

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.