- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The University of North Dakota opposes a proposal to extend a moratorium for a new nickname and logo for the school that has been without a moniker since dropping “Fighting Sioux,” the school’s president told lawmakers Monday.

UND President Robert Kelley told the House Education Committee that the university “can’t continue to be a ‘Fighting Question Mark.’”

The decades-old and highly emotional debate over UND’s nickname heated up in 2005, when the NCAA named 19 schools with American Indian nicknames, logos and mascots that association deemed to be “hostile and abusive.” The logo originally was retired in 2010, after supporters failed to meet an NCAA settlement requirement that called for approval from the state’s two namesake Sioux tribes.

State lawmakers then passed a law requiring UND to use the logo, but it was repealed in 2011 after the NCAA refused to budge on the threat of sanctions. A year later, 68 percent of North Dakota residents voted to drop the nickname. The Legislature then enacted a three-year moratorium on choosing a new moniker, which expires this month.

Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, is pushing the bill that would extend the moratorium until July 2017. Louser, who is not a UND graduate, told fellow lawmakers there is nothing wrong with just calling UND “North Dakota” and using “N and D” as the school’s logo.

He called it a compromise between those still upset over losing the old nickname and logo and those who want a new one.

“Simply being the University of North Dakota is unique and appropriate given the circumstances,” Louser said. “Can the state and our citizens not get behind a school that simply prides itself on North Dakota?”

But Kelley insisted that “continued uncertainty about the selection of a nickname is having a negative effect on UND.”

Not only do students and athletes not have a “rallying point,” not having a nickname and logo also has hurt the sale of UND merchandise, Kelley told the committee of lawmakers who will forward the bill to the full House for a vote.

Kelley said being nickname-less also “keeps open the issue of using ‘Fighting Sioux’ as the unofficial nickname.”

Kelley said the university already formed a 13-member committee in September “to develop recommendations on how best to select a new nickname.” Another committee will be chosen to actually come up with a name, perhaps sometime this year, he said.

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