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UND denies pressuring Summit League to take stand on nickname, logo
Less than a day after a news story implied UND pressured the Summit League to take a stand against the controversial Fighting Sioux nickname to help place the school’s potential membership on the fast track, UND athletic department officials went on the offensive to deny the allegation.
“The University of North Dakota never asked the Summit League or its commissioner to take a stand against the nickname and logo,” UND athletic director Brian Faison said Wednesday.
A Fargo Forum story implied that UND asked Summit League commissioner Tom Douple to take a public stand against the school’s nickname and logo, a move that that conceivably would prompt the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education to resolve the issue sooner than later.
In April of 2010, the SBoHE moved up the deadline to retire the nickname sooner than the NCAA-imposed deadline of Nov. 30, 2010 — thereby opening the door for UND’s possible membership in the Summit.
But UND never made it to the Summit, instead opting to accept an offer for membership from the Big Sky Conference in early November.
UND athletic officials, however, maintained that the resolution of the nickname controversy existed from the start of the school’s discussion with the Summit about potential membership.
“In fact, the commissioner of the Summit League publicly stated, on more than one occasion over the past two years, that the University of North Dakota had to resolve the nickname and logo issue before they would consider us for membership,” Faison said. “The resolution of the nickname and logo issue always was a precondition for league membership.”
Faison said the Summit League told UND when it applied for membership in May of 2009 that the nickname and logo issue had to be resolved before membership would be granted.
“My position has always been that we need resolution,” Faison said. “My job was to find the best conference I could for the university and we have that in the Big Sky Conference.”
Faison said he was surprised by Douple’s comment.
The two have not talked since UND canceled a planned Summit League site visit to UND in late October. Shortly after that, UND accepted an offer from the Big Sky.
There are no plans for Faison or UND to talk to Douple about the story.
“I have no interest in talking to him,” Faison said. “We have more exciting things to deal with. The hockey team is having a great run. The basketball teams are turning it around.
“And it was great to sit in my office the other day and actually look at a four-year, eight-game football schedule already locked in with the Big Sky Conference.
“We have other things to worry about than whatever their problem is or what Tom’s problem is.”
The Big Sky ultimately became a better fit for UND since the Summit does not offer football. When UND made the move to Division I, finding a home for Sioux football was one of the top priorities for the athletic department. UND will join the Big Sky in 2012.
While UND officially applied for membership in May of 2009, school officials said there was an indication in January of that year that the Summit had issues with UND’s nickname and logo.
Faison said while UND and North Dakota State were trying to negotiate the renewal of the Sioux-Bison football rivalry, Douple came out and said he didn’t think it was a good idea for any of the Summit schools to schedule UND until the school gets the nickname issue resolved.
NDSU belongs to the Summit.
Douple was not available for comment Wednesday. But a spokesman in the league office said no further comment on the matter is expected.
Faison, meanwhile, spent a portion of the day addressing the issue on a handful of radio talk shows in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck.
Faison also was asked why Douple said what he said this week, nearly three months after UND opted for the Big Sky instead of the Summit.
“You’ll have to ask commissioner Douple,” he said. “I have no idea.”
By Wayne Nelson, Grand Forks Herald