Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Branding Endeavor of the University of North Dakota

Photo: KFYR

On June 14th of 2012, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted to discontinue the use of the Fighting Sioux moniker for the University of North Dakota, ending a long-term debate on whether or not the school will go on with using the name. This came after the 2005 NCAA ruling of sanctions being laid to teams who still held the nickname of tribal people which the NCAA deemed to be hostile and abusive.

After numerous debates, injunctions, and lawsuits-- the ruling was laid down in June and UND would be without a nickname until 2015, by amendment on the BoE's ruling.

UND Athletic Director Brian Faison felt the craziness on going when it came to going without a nickname for the better part of 18 months.

"We were prepared to make the transition, stop the transition, make the transition, stop the transition four times in the last year and a half with lawsuits and legislations," said Faison when I sat down with him last week. "We had one of the great brand identification in college sports, but you just don't replace that overnight. It'll be a process that'll take time."

And time was something that UND needed more of in some aspect. While they did get an invitation to the Big Sky Conference in other sports aside from hockey, it was during the transition away from the Sioux name. Yet, when the debate started again-- the Big Sky members were worried about what the name could bring in a controversial way and raised concerns about UND being into their conference.

The Big Sky Conference is an important part to the UND athletic program, as Faison states, saying that without a conference, it could have been doom.

"I don't think we could have survived as independent. It's difficult enough in transitioning from Division II to Division I to get games anyway, especially from where we're located geographically, it was a very concerning time for us."

Below is the 14-minute interview I had with Mr. Faison in which we tackle the ins and outs of the name change and new branding to come, what it means for the Ralph Engelstad Arena, what it means for the school, the future of the name, and why it won't be called the school's old name-- the Flickertails.

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