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Some schools quickly removed their American Indian-themed nicknames when faced with NCAA pressure, and others such as Florida State survived the edict by getting approval from namesake tribes. However, there was no such consensus among tribal leaders in North Dakota.
No nickname backers have held out as long as Fighting Sioux boosters, though school officials have long given up the fight and have been promoting a vote to retire the name.
Tim O’Keefe, executive vice president and CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, led a tour of North Dakota last week that included several of the school’s coaches who pleaded for voters to finally put the issue to rest.
"I think that over the course of time our case has gotten stronger and stronger," O’Keefe said. "Listening to the coaches last week tell the story about the reality of how they are being impacted by scheduling and recruiting ... the facts are the facts."
The law forcing the school to use the name and logo was approved in March 2011 but was repealed in a special session after NCAA representatives told state officials that it would not budge on sanctions. Johnson’s group then collected the necessary signatures for the ballot measure.
O’Keefe said Johnson’s group should drop the second petition drive and come together with "the other passionate loyal supporters" of UND.
But Mike Kramer, 57, of Bismarck, was not swayed.
"I’m not a UND graduate, but I’m a UND hockey fanatic. I’ve been following since 1959, since they won their first national championship as the ‘Sioux,’" Kramer said. "I just don’t like the idea of being forced to change the name."
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