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University system chancellor plans to meet with UND?leaders on Fighting Sioux nickname

GRAND FORKS - North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz said Thursday he plans to meet with some UND campus leaders in coming weeks to discuss the future of the school's controversial Fighting Sioux nickname before naming a committee to formally address the issue.

Goetz would not describe in detail what he plans to discuss with UND leaders, but said a recent vote by the tribal council of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to disallow a reservation-wide referendum on the nickname had raised new concerns. He also cited the overall strength of nickname opposition expressed by some Standing Rock council members.

Goetz said the nickname committee definitely will be formed at some point and will be a fundamental part of determining the nickname's future. He's described that committee in the past as being composed of representatives from UND's Ralph Engelstad Arena and other campus constituents, as well as state leaders with an interest in the nickname.

A November legal settlement with the NCAA gave UND three years to retire the nickname if it could not win endorsements from tribal councils at both Standing Rock and Spirit Lake, the state's other major Sioux reservation.

The Standing Rock council, which has a long history of opposing the nickname, has reiterated that opposition several times since the settlement.

Spirit Lake officials have generally had a more measured view of the nickname, and the council floated the idea several months ago of bringing the nickname to a binding reservation-wide referendum. But that plan has since languished and one council member said it's unlikely to be brought up again.

Goetz said Wednesday that he would brief State Board of Higher Education members about where the nickname issue stood during Thursday's meeting, but he failed to do so, mostly because of time constraints, he said.

Goetz said Wednesday it's important to him to not allow the nickname controversy to negatively affect the image of incoming UND President Robert Kelley, who takes office July 1.