University of North Dakota president Robert Kelley has requested an amendment to the 2007 settlement agreement with the NCAA regarding the school's Fighting Sioux nickname in an effort to give the university until 2015 to resolve physical issues with Ralph Engelstad Arena. In its current state, the arena is ineligible to host NCAA-sanctioned post-season events.
Kelley made his request Thursday, two days after a bill mandating that UND retain the nickname received favorable committee action in the North Dakota Legislature. The bill would instruct the state's attorney general to sue the NCAA a second time if the association tried to penalize UND for retaining the Sioux name and symbols.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, the settlement agreement specifies some American Indian-themed features at the privately owned arena could remain because they have "historical significance" or would be prohibitively expensive to change. But without tribal authorization for UND to retain the imagery, other features would have to be removed for the venue to become a potential NCAA tournament host site.
Kelley indicated Friday that his request was receiving the NCAA's consideration. He said the additional time could help reduce costs associated with the alterations and also give the university time to deal with uncertainty caused by the Legislature's recent actions - ones Kelley says threaten to damage the university.
Members of the president's transition cabinet met Friday and discussed a yet-unassembled task group that will be charged with finding suitable replacements for "Sioux" and "Fighting Sioux." Some members, including American Indian representatives, argued that UND needs to move faster on this front to end the distraction and divisiveness the debate has created.
An interlocking "N" and "D" logo is scheduled to replace the long-used - and, in alumni circles, revered - Indian-head imagery to identify university athletic teams after Aug. 15.