OPINION: My choice for the next UND nickname

As a University of North Dakota alumnus, I had the privilege to be a part of its history. On October 19, at 8 a.m. central time, voting on a new school nickname opened, and I submitted my vote.

Fritz Pollard Jr. stands in his ‘Nodaks’ track uniform.
Fritz Pollard Jr. stands in his ‘Nodaks’ track uniform.

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

As a University of North Dakota alumnus, I had the privilege to be a part of its history. On October 19, at 8 a.m. central time, voting on a new school nickname opened, and I submitted my vote.

At first I was taking the vote lightly, excited to be a part of the process, albeit a small part but a part of it none the less.

But as the date of voting got closer and closer, I realized that the decision should be taken with more than just a grain of salt. I know I am only one vote, but we’re talking about choosing a new school nickname for the first time in decades. This vote is essentially changing a legacy. I’m going to leave my opinion about the Fighting Sioux debate out of this, but regardless of your feelings, altering a name that has stood since the 1930s is an important part of UND’s legacy.

I also want to point out that involving students, alumni, season ticket holders, and donators was a nice gesture by the administration. Regardless of your feelings towards Robert Kelley, allowing the lifeblood of the school to assist in the process was a good move, as opposed to the (expensive) committee assembled just choosing a nickname.

The unfortunate part of the process is that no one name appealed to me over the rest. So I was forced to decide via process of elimination.

Let’s start with the choices.

The public submitted thousands of suggestions, and after a few rounds of cut downs the committee left five for the public to choose from: Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Rough Riders and Sundogs.

I ranked the names from least favorable to my ultimate choice.

Sundogs: This name was scratched off my list before I could even sound out the ’S’. When it was decided a few years ago that Fighting Sioux would indeed be retired, the first thing I said was that “I hope the new name doesn’t have a cold weather connotation.” Grand Forks, and to a larger extent North Dakota, already has a reputation (true as it may be) for frigid temperatures and bitter winters. Do we really want to welcome more commentary on this?

Roughriders: Simply said, I don’t want the college I know and love to share the name with a high school I have no connection to. It would be too redundant and frankly I don’t know how this made the list. Also, it’s affiliation with Teddy Roosevelt, a little questionable after retiring the Fighting Sioux out of respect for Native Americans. His face is already carved in stone on sacred land in the Black Hills. Don’t we give him enough recognition?

Fighting Hawks: Moving to a name like this an easy way out. There are way too many nicknames with bird affiliations. And how does this represent North Dakota. Honestly, I would have preferred ‘Fighting Pheasants.’ At least that has an affiliation with the state; and talk about a mascot that would exude strength. Have you ever hit one with your car? Those football-sized animals can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

North Stars: I liked this name initially. But part of the criteria was to choose a name in part because of how it represents North Dakota. This only brings up memories of the lost Minnesota professional hockey franchise.

So we come down to my choice, Nodaks.

I was hard pressed to make this selection, but Brad Schlossman and Wayne Nelson (both sports writers for the Grand Forks Herald) revealed a little history that swayed my decision.

Prior to the Fighting Sioux, UND was known as the Flickertails. But most of the sports uniforms did not have Flickertails across their chest. What was across their chest?

Nodaks.

Is the name unique?

Yes.

Does it reflect the state?

I think so.

Does it honor UND’s history?

Absolutely.

It was estimated that 82,000 people were registered to cast a vote, and a name would require 50% of the vote to win. If one name does not get the required amount there will be a second vote.

I for one am comfortable with the choice I made given my options, and I hope this can be a step in letting the Fighting Sioux nickname rest in piece so the university, and everyone affiliated with it, can move forward.

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