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Forum staff reports, Published October 26 2007

Sioux settlement approved

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The University of North Dakota has until Nov. 30, 2010, to either retire its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo or strike a deal with the area’s Sioux tribes to keep them, according to terms of a settlement approved today.

North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to accept the agreement, recommended by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, following a closed door session that lasted more than an hour.

Stenehjem said the next step will be to meet with the Standing Rock Sioux and Spirit Lake tribes to have a “calm and reflective” discussion about going forward.

To keep the nickname, UND must have “clear and affirmative” support from both, the settlement agreement states.

“I think it’s important to remember at the outset that without this lawsuit, we would’ve been immediately subject to the NCAA restrictions.” Stenehjem said.

“This provision provides for a lengthy period of time to consult with and have dialogue with tribal representatives to determine if this is something that they think we can perhaps use in a respectful way that is beneficial to them and to everybody that is involved,” he said.

If UND secures namesake approval from the tribes but the tribes later withdraw that approval, UND will have one year to complete a transition to a new nickname, or longer if the parties agree.

For its part, the NCAA agrees it will not initiate contact with any Sioux tribe during the three-year period.

In the event UND announces a transition to a new name and logo, that transition must be complete on or before Aug. 15, 2011.

UND and the NCAA have been at odds over this issue since August 2005 when the NCAA listed the school among 18 in the nation with mascots or nicknames considered “hostile” or “abusive.”

That decision meant those universities couldn’t host NCAA playoffs or use the nickname in postseason play.

UND sued the NCAA over the mandate.

Other details of today’s settlement include:

- UND will not be restricted from hosting or bidding to host championship events during the three-year period.

- If the university isn’t able to strike a deal with the tribes, the Ralph Engelstad Arena still will be allowed to keep imagery of historical significance, including championship banners, photographs, trophies and dedication memorials. It also will not have to remove imagery embedded in architecture.

The arena will be able to keep, until Dec. 31, 2012, items that eventually will wear out, such as carpeting, tiling and aisle seating.

- The NCAA agrees to make a public announcement regarding UND, saying that although it believes American Indian names and imagery can create hostile and abusive environments, it didn’t make any findings about the UND campus.

Stenehjem called the agreement “legally logical” and said it’s the “only realistic settlement.”

Board of Higher Education members include John Q. Paulsen, Richie Smith, Sue Andrews, John Backes, Duaine Espegard, Pam Kostelecky, Nathan Martindale and Grant Shaft. Kostelecky voted via phone.

UND President Charles Kupchella was not present for the settlement discussion today because he’s in Pennsylvania on vacation.

Northeast Central Judicial District Judge Lawrence Jahnke, who has presided over the case, has encouraged the parties to work toward an agreement so the case would not go to trial, scheduled for December. In April, Jahnke told the parties legal fees were “rapidly spiraling out of control.”

Combined legal fees and expenses in the case have reached $2 million, making it one of the most expensive court cases in state history, Jahnke wrote in a court ruling this week.

Private donations through the UND Alumni Association and Foundation are funding North Dakota’s legal costs in the case. The state’s most recent billings put the cost at just under $900,000.

In September, Jahnke sealed future court filings in the case to facilitate settlement talks between the parties.

Check back with inforum.com for updates on this story throughout the day.

For complete coverage of the day’s events and reaction, read tomorrow’s Forum.

Proposed agreement highlights

- Fighting Sioux nickname will be retired in three years unless the University of North Dakota gets support from the area’s Sioux tribes.

- NCAA would allow UND to use the Fighting Sioux nickname in postseason play for the next three years.

- Some of the Sioux logos would have to be removed from the Ralph Engelstad Arena, but the more permanent logos, such as those in granite, would stay.

Sioux nickname timeline

Timeline of events in the state’s lawsuit against the NCAA over the Fighting Sioux nickname:

- Aug. 5, 2005: The NCAA lists UND among 18 schools in the nation with mascots or nicknames considered “hostile or abusive.” The decision means universities can’t host NCAA playoffs or use the nickname in postseason play.

- Aug. 30, 2005: UND files first formal appeal of NCAA’s decision.

- Sept. 28, 2005: NCAA denies UND’s appeal.

- Nov. 17, 2005: State Board of Higher Education unanimously supports UND’s appeals to the NCAA to keep the Sioux nickname and logo.

- April 28, 2006: UND loses second and final appeal to NCAA.

- June 15, 2006: Board of Higher Education unanimously authorizes UND to proceed with a lawsuit.

- Oct. 5, 2006: Lawsuit against the NCAA filed in Grand Forks District Court.

- Nov. 9, 2006: The first court hearing is held in Grand Forks. Nearly 50 students, faculty and others who oppose the nickname gather outside the courthouse in support of the NCAA.

- Nov. 11, 2006: Judge Lawrence Jahnke grants a UND request to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname while the lawsuit is pending.

- Dec. 16, 2006: Jahnke postpones the trial date from April 2007 to Dec. 10, 2007, and urges parties to settle.

- March 22, 2007: UND makes it public that the Engelstad Family Foundation has pledged support for the lawsuit costs.

- Thursday: Board announces meeting in Grand Forks to discuss a possible lawsuit settlement.

- Today: Board will meet in executive session and act on a recommendation from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

– Compiled by Amy Dalrymple

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590 Sioux settlement approved Forum staff reports 20071026