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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 17 2012

UND coach apologizes to NDSU for 'racist blowhards' remark

FARGO – Veteran University of North Dakota women’s basketball coach Gene Roebuck apologized Tuesday to North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani for remarks he made Friday at a UND booster luncheon.

Roebuck referred to NDSU fans as “racist blowhards,” apparently in response to NDSU supporters – and at least one football player – chanting “Sioux suck” in a welcome home celebration after NDSU’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title.

The booster meeting was held Friday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. The remark was confirmed by several witnesses.

In his email to Bresciani, Roebuck wrote, “I would like to apologize for an inappropriate comment I made in reference to North Dakota State University at a booster luncheon last Friday. As a lifelong resident of North Dakota, I have great respect for North Dakota State University and the state of North Dakota. Please accept my apology.”

The UND coach is in Boston, where his team was getting ready to play Harvard tonight.

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said he was informed last Friday that something inappropriate was said about his school by a UND coach. Taylor said UND athletic director Brian Faison called him to apologize, not long after the conclusion of the UND booster club meeting.

“I didn’t ask Brian what it was, but I said I appreciated the call,” Taylor said. “I have not heard anything more.”

Roebuck’s apology came the day of the second renewal of the NDSU-UND men’s basketball game, played Tuesday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks and nearly a week after a Bison football player made the reference to UND’s former nickname at the victory rally.

“One thing (Faison) told me is it’s one thing if a 20-year-old football player says something,” Taylor aid. “It’s another thing when an experienced coach says something inappropriate. That’s all he told me.”

The Sioux-bashing at the homecoming celebration prompted Taylor to apologize to Faison.

Taylor said apologies and remarks between the schools have been going on for years and said comments go both ways between the fan bases.

“Recently, we’ve been the only ones ever to say anything, but it’s always gone both ways and it’s not fun for anybody,” Taylor said. “It’s not the guys on the court. It’s the fan base. It’s been going on since before I got here and recently it was directed at us. That’s not always the case.”

The NDSU fans’ taunt and Roebuck’s response are also on the heels of UND’s work to complete the retirement of its historic Fighting Sioux nickname and logo to comply with terms of a settlement with the NCAA.

Passions remain high concerning the nickname, however, and a petition drive is under way to force a statewide vote on whether UND should stay the Sioux.

One of the concerns cited by people favoring the logo and nickname be retired is the difficulty of controlling incidents involving abusive use of it at UND and the schools where it competes.

Grand Forks Herald reporter Wayne Nelson contributed to this report.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia.