Tuesday, June 16, 2015

North Dakota Can't Get This Right

Hope everyone's had a great spring. Summer is almost here, believe it or don't.

If you're a Twitter follower (@BruceCiskie if you're not), you'll be excited -- or dismayed -- to know that our third annual 100 Day Countdown to the UMD season opener starts July 1.

(Yes, the exhibition is Oct. 4, but we count down to the first game that counts, which is Oct. 9 against Bemidji State.)

Later in the offseason, I'll draw up a projected line chart for the upcoming campaign, an exercise that serves to get me really excited for the season. But today, we talk about one of our adversaries.

Out at North Dakota, they've been Nickname-Free since 2012, when the NCAA finally twisted their arm enough to get them to drop Fighting Sioux. Well, officially at least.

Go to any sporting event involving a North Dakota team, and you're bound to see a few "Sioux" jerseys floating around. Hell, there was a guy in a Sioux jersey at UMD's regional in Manchester this past March. UND was playing in Fargo, mind you.

There's a large group of UND fans who simply haven't moved on from the Sioux name. And since the school has been sans nickname this whole time, they haven't had any real reason to move on.

It's something that could change this summer. The university has a committee put in charge of finding the school's next athletic nickname. The process has made headlines throughout the spring, and now UND is down to seven options for a new name.

"No nickname" remains one of the available choices, along with "Fighting Hawks," "Green Hawks," "Nodaks," "North Stars," "Roughriders" and "Sundogs."

I'm not here to break down the choices. Honestly, I don't care what North Dakota calls itself.

But it has to call itself something, at least in my view.

The process of a new nickname, at least to me, is partially about moving on. UND's rabid -- that's a compliment, guys, so don't flood the inbox -- fanbase has been given no reason to move on from a name it loved so much.

Yes, the argument exists that a large number of fans wouldn't move on anyway. Maybe that argument is correct. But what is undeniable is this: No nickname means the vast majority of the fanbase will not move on.

They might not want to, but this process should be about moving on, not endorsing the status quo, where "Sioux" is only not UND's nickname officially. Fans yell "Sioux" at the end of the national anthem, still chant "Let's Go Sioux" during the game, and still wear Sioux jerseys and other clothing bearing the logo all the time. The university might not be making bank on the nickname, but it still exists.

While a new name doesn't guarantee the Sioux legacy will fade away, no name guarantees it won't.

So for what it's worth, as much as I appreciated the old name and the old logo, and as much as I respect what UND has, I strongly feel UND has to implement a new name and not go with no name at all.

I also recognize UND can't win here. No name, and exactly what I've laid out happens. But those loyal to the Sioux name will struggle to accept any name that is put in front of them. They'll reject it at first, and it might take years to reach full acceptance. It'll be a process, just like the last few years have been.

It's been three years, and it's time to start new traditions.

Ok, there's my $.02. It's time for me to move on.

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