NCAA asks judge to reconsider order in nickname case

Grand Forks, North Dakota (AP) 9-07

The NCAA is asking a judge to reconsider an earlier order limiting the scope of the University of North Dakota lawsuit over use of its “Fighting Sioux” nickname.

The NCAA considers the nickname and UND's American Indian head logo “hostile and abusive” and has barred UND from displaying them during postseason play and from hosting playoff games. UND says it uses the nickname and logo with respect and has sued the NCAA.

Northeast Central District Judge Lawrence Jahnke in April ruled that the issue in the lawsuit is whether the NCAA acted properly in imposing the ban, not whether the logo and nickname are offensive.

The NCAA has filed a motion asking Jahnke to reconsider and to allow UND's dealings with Indian tribes to be debated. The motion says UND misled the NCAA during its administrative appeals process by claiming that the Spirit Lake Sioux Nation supports the nickname.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, in his response, said the NCAA has not raised any new arguments.

“The NCAA's continued refusal to respect the announced 'yardstick for recovery' is entirely unwarranted,” he said. Recovery is a legal term for the exchange of information among attorneys.

Stenehjem also asked Jahnke to order the NCAA to pay UND's expenses associated with responding to the motion.

Stenehjem's office is representing UND in the lawsuit, which is being paid for with private contributions.

A 2000 Spirit Lake Tribal Council resolution states: “As long as something positive comes from this controversy, (the tribe is) not opposed to keeping the 'Sioux' name and present logo at UND.”

UND has maintained that the resolution should be read as a vote of support for the nickname, but tribal officials did not respond to NCAA requests for clarification.

Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson last month told a reporter that she reads the resolution as neither supporting nor opposing the nickname. She said she does not expect the Tribal Council to clarify its position or to reconsider the nickname issue.

“Throughout the appeal process at issue, plaintiff consistently maintained that it had the endorsement and support of the Spirit Lake Nation,” the NCAA motion says. “Those claims are also an integral part of the pending litigation. ... Based on recent developments, it is becoming increasingly difficult to accept that plaintiff could have made these claims in good faith, much less 'utmost good faith.”'

The NCAA earlier also had asked to look at communications UND benefactor Ralph Engelstad had with UND and the state Board of Higher Education. Engelstad, who died in 2002, supported the nickname and made it an issue when he donated money for the school's $100 million hockey arena.

Jahnke denied the NCAA request. The NCAA in its new motion asks the judge to reconsider.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the interests of third parties (Ralph Engelstad, his estate, family and foundations) have so insinuated themselves in this controversy that they cannot be ignored,” the motion says.

Stenehjem said in his response to the NCAA motion that UND's conduct is not the issue. “This case is about what the NCAA did or did not do,” he said.

Information from: The Forum,