Last Modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:19 PM
It was a big sports week in North Dakota.
What, you’ve never seen that sentence before?
How about helping you recover from the confused looks and all-around shock with this one: Boy, the NCAA sure knows how to screw things up.
For starters, they shipped last year’s FCS championship banner to the University of North Dakota last week.
The title, of course, was won by North Dakota State. In this case I’m not sure which side should be more offended — North Dakota for receiving the humbling reminder that they aren’t as good as their archrival, or North Dakota State for winning it all and still having the NCAA not know it exists.
Either way, it is certainly a big egg on the face of an organization deathly frightened by the prospect of offending anyone. The other big news out of North Dakota last week is that UND is dropping its Fighting Sioux nickname after voters elected to overturn a state law that forced the school to use the name despite the NCAA’s protestations.
In theory, it is the end of a controversy that goes back to 2005, when the NCAA ruled to ban any schools with “hostile or abusive” logos or names on their uniforms from hosting or participating in NCAA postseason events.
The ruling hit home in Louisiana, as ULM was forced to change its identity from the Indians to the Warhawks.
But as is the case with everything in life, if you have enough money, rules don’t actually apply to you.
The biggest schools whom the ruling seemed to apply to — such as Florida State, Illinois and Utah — all found some sort of loophole to jump through and kept their nicknames. The only real change came with Illinois dumping its Chief Illiniwek mascot, and the skids had long been greased for the exit of that frat boy dressed up in a Native American headdress before the NCAA stepped in.
To be fair, there was a loophole for North Dakota too. It just hasn’t been able to squeeze all the way through.
The school would be allowed to continue using the nickname if it received explicit approval from the state’s Sioux tribal councils. It only got the nod from one of them, and thus the fight carried over through courts and legislatures and ballots for the next seven years.
Moving forward, the school will have to embark on an undoubtedly expensive rebranding campaign that will underline the pointlessness of the NCAA’s ruling.
If the NCAA was actually interested in the issues facing Native Americans, it would promote something that actually solved real-life problems rather than made-up ones. The money used by schools forced to rebrand would have been much better spent had the NCAA encouraged those with so-called hostile names to set up scholarship programs for Native American students rather than change their mascots to the Warhawks or Wolves.
Instead, the organization just went the route of having some cheesy public relations move that says “Look! We care!”
That’s not to say a nickname can’t be offensive — the moniker “Redskins” is every bit as outrageous as calling a team, say, the Notre Dame Fighting Freckled Paleskin Gingers. But schools had already phased Redskins (or Redmen) out in the 1990s, and not because the NCAA made them. It’s just what common sense and decency dictated.
Once North Dakota finally has its new nickname, the NCAA will likely pat itself on the back again and let us know it is capable of creating legislation with some teeth.
However, the rest of us know those teeth are just dentures — never tough enough to bite into the meat of the issues that really matter.
Alex Hickey covers McNeese sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: Prairiefire On: 6/20/2012
Title: They already have Native American programs...
UND already has a program call INMED which is short for Indians in Medicene. A regional tribal POW WOW is held every year on campus and no expense to the tribes... Many Native Americans are at the school under grants and scholarships from the state... These were put in place over 10 years ago to placate the few who wanted the logo to go... I hope that now that the logo is gone that these programs and grants/sholarships are eliminated as I don't want my tax money to go to these programs any longer...