Fighting Hawks picked as University of North Dakota nickname
FARGO, N.D. (AP) Wednesday's news that the University of North Dakota's new nickname would be Fighting Hawks was greeted matter-of-factly by some UND players and coaches.
The mascot received 57 percent of the vote compared to 43 percent for Roughriders in the two-name runoff. The new nickname replaces Fighting Sioux, which was retired by the state Board of Higher Education in 2012 after the NCAA deemed it ''hostile and abusive'' and said the school could not host playoff games if it kept the controversial moniker.
''I think this name underscores the tremendous competitive spirit of our athletic teams, our student athletes and the entirety of the University of North Dakota, expressing our state spirit and the fact that UND continues to ascend to new heights on a daily basis,'' President Robert Kelley said of Fighting Hawks.
The endorsements were not quite as rousing inside the athletic department. UND hockey coach Brad Berry and football coach Bubba Schweigert did not volunteer opinions.
''Obviously it's been a long process and finally here today,'' Berry said. ''I just want to make sure we remain who we are as far as preparing for our team and dealing with our players.''
Schweigert said he and his players have discussed the nickname issue and thought it was best that they focus on football.
''It really doesn't change anything in our office and how we go about things,'' Schweigert said. ''We have a lot of pride in our football program. That's what we talk about.''
Hockey team captain and UND junior Gage Ausmus said it's ''just a nickname,'' adding he would have ''picked something else'' if it were up to him.
The vote was open to people with UND ties, including students, staff and alums, and 27,378 votes were cast.
UND athletic director Brian Faison said the transition to the new name will begin immediately, but could take months to fully implement. The university will be accepting proposals from companies to design a new logo for use next fall.
The first ballot had five finalists selected by a committee: Fighting Hawks, Roughriders, Nodaks, Sundogs and North Stars. Some alumni and fans lashed out at the decision to not include the option of no nickname on the final ballot. Kelley said it wasn't in the best interests of the school to move forward without a new moniker and said the school ''will always be North Dakota.''
The NCAA disputed the Fighting Sioux nickname and UND decided to retire it after the school failed to win approval to keep it from the state's two tribes. State residents voted overwhelmingly in early 2012 to dump the nickname and American Indian head logo that was first unveiled in the 1930s and redesigned by a Native American UND alumnus in 1999.
Frank Burggraf, a former UND hockey player who led a charge to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname, believes the wishes of the majority of alumni, fans and Native Americans have been ignored and Wednesday's announcement won't stop his campaign to bring back the old moniker.
''You can't replace Fighting Sioux no matter how you try,'' Burggraf said. ''This doesn't change the fact that this whole process has been a debacle.''
The selection of a new nickname has cost the school somewhere ''in the high $200,000 range,'' said Susan Walton, UND's vice president for university and public affairs.
''We understand that that absolutely represents a significant expense,'' Walton said. ''We don't know how much the next part of the process will cost.''