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Sioux logo petitions threaten UND sports

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opinion Fargo, 58102
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

Like children playing in a mud puddle, we will keep stirring the Fighting Sioux logo issue until we are so dirty that no one will want to play Tiddlywinks with the University of North Dakota.

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The latest threats to UND sports in this never-ending saga are the two petitions being circulated to put the matter to a statewide vote in the June 12th primary election.

One petition proposes to suspend the law passed in the special session of the Legislature that repealed the mandate to keep the Fighting Sioux logo passed by the regular 2011 session.  If this petition secures 13,000 signatures, it will suspend the law, thereby keeping the Fighting Sioux logo alive until the measure is voted on in June.

To stop the effect of such a referral and to continue retiring the logo, the Board of Higher Education would have to get the issue before the courts on the grounds that the original law was unconstitutional, making the referral null and void. 

As pointed out in this column during the regular legislative session, the issue of constitutionality should have been addressed by the board when the legislature was considering the legislation. Now the mess is getting bigger because everyone refused to deal with the issue.

The second petition proposes to amend the state constitution with language that would require the University of North Dakota to continue using the Fighting Sioux logo.  

Passage of this amendment would be a death knell for Division I sports at UND. First, the NCAA has already made its position clear: UND will not participate in NCAA-sponsored playoffs as long as it uses the Fighting Sioux logo. Goodbye network coverage. Goodbye national prestige. Goodbye Final Four hockey.

Second, other teams in various leagues involving Sioux competition may refuse to play UND as long as it has the logo. From public statements, it sounds as though the Big Sky Conference has already become skeptical about accepting UND football in its league because of the logo. It doesn't want our baggage.

Since UND sports teams would find themselves out in the cold in NCAA playoffs and league play, the recognition and honor for which the petition sponsors are craving would be lost. We would be relegated to playing pickup games.

The petitioners don't seem to realize that these two petitions are dealing with an issue that is no longer under our control. That is reality. Passing state laws and constitutional amendments are meaningless at this point. The debating stage is over.

Under the circumstances, the best way out of this mess would be abandonment of the petition drive. We could urge people not to sign the petitions but that would be hopeless because most folks aren't aware of the damage the petitions will do to UND sports. Even the petitioners don't seem to realize that.

If the petitions are filed and both measures go on the ballot, thousands of dollars will be wasted on the campaigns. Money will be spent on both sides of the issue. Valuable time will be diverted at the University for months to fight passage of these measures. It will be a costly affair.

If either measure passes, we will see another round of fighting with the NCAA and the leagues involving UND sports. Neither the petitioners nor the University of North Dakota will benefit. The mud puddle will just get bigger.

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