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Published August 12 2011

Forum editorial: Meeting with NCAA is a sham

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple might be leading the delegation to today’s meeting with the NCAA, but the pilgrimage to Indianapolis really is Carlson’s folly.

That is, North Dakota House Majority Leader Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, who almost singlehandedly put the state in a no-win situation regarding the fate of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux logo and nickname. He misused his position of leadership to derail a legal process that was started about six years ago by the state Board of Higher Education, the attorney general and the university – and had been completed. An agreement to retire the logo had been reached, and the university was on track to find a new symbol for its athletic teams.

Acting as if they had been asleep for six years, Carlson and his sheep in the Legislature played their Johnny-come-lately card and passed a law mandating UND to keep the logo. Not only did the (probably unconstitutional) legislation insult the signers of the agreement, it also blithely ignored unambiguous statements from the NCAA that the organization’s stance on the logo will not change. Furthermore, important collegiate athletic conferences and several universities said they would not play UND teams if the logo were retained.

Carlson has said his bill was a response to the wishes of many North Dakotans. Maybe so. But leadership is doing the right thing, not pandering to the loudest voices. Leadership is supposed to look ahead, not endorse an unsustainable past. By those measures, leader Carlson and his spineless followers failed.

The meeting today is more an attempt by Carlson to scrape the egg off his face. He’s savvy enough to know the NCAA will listen politely to the North Dakotans but will not back off its stance on the UND logo. Thus, Carlson and other logo lovers can spin the meeting: The big and bad NCAA bullied righteous little North Dakota. “We tried,” Carlson can say, “but they would not budge.” His next step just might be reversing the foolish logo law when the Legislature meets in special session in November.

The North Dakota-requested meeting with the immovable NCAA is a waste of time and money, a not-so-clever ploy to save face by blaming the NCAA for the Legislature’s mistake. It’s the latest wrinkle in Carlson’s folly.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.