Connor Gaarder of Univeristy of North Dakota celebrates a goal at the Frozen Four. (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Even without the Fighting Sioux nickname, the University of North Dakota could potentially face sanctions should fans continue to chant the former moniker. An NCAA spokesperson gave the school a reminder that schools can be held accountable for fans' actions should an opposing team complain about the fans’ conduct.
The University of North Dakota has dropped the Fighting Sioux nickname, but fans of the school’s team haven’t been as quick to adopt the practice which could result in sanctions against the school.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, the NCAA has told the school that were a competing team to issue a complaint about fans continuing the use of ‘Fighting Sioux’ or ‘Sioux’ in chants — such as the anthem ending, “and the home of the Sioux!” — the NCAA could potentially sanction the athletic teams.
"Schools can be held accountable for their fans' actions/behavior at school events," said Gail Dent, the NCAA’s associate director of public and media relations, in an email to the Herald. "Schools have also found ways to proactively deliver public address announcements and other forms of written and verbal messaging to their fan/alumni/student base to deter various types of behavior.”
UND dropped the Fighting Sioux nickname three seasons ago, yet the imagery and chants are still prevalent at sporting events. It’s clear that fans have an affinity for the name, as during the submission process for a new, fan-selected nickname, Fighting Sioux was submitted roughly 5,000 times.
Even with a new name, the difficulty will be having fans adopt the moniker and new school mascot as much as they embraced Fighting Sioux and having the new name overtake the old. UND spokesman Peter Johnson told the Herald that the school doesn’t want to tell fans what they can and cannot say at games or wear to the arena.
"The president has said pretty consistently that people can certainly wear what they want to wear and say what they want to say within the bounds of, well, the kinds of things you can say," Johnson told the Herald.
It isn’t certain that if the chants were to continue that there would be sanctions, only the possibility that the NCAA could impose them were it deemed necessary. Johnson described the warning to the Herald as, “a friendly word.”
The school has been undergoing to process of adopting a new nickname with the list of potential monikers whittled down to five: Fighting Hawks, North Stars, Nodaks, Roughriders and Sundogs. UND president Robert Kelley has also suggested the no nickname option — the school has gone without a team name for the past three seasons — could be reconsidered after a public backlash with regards to it not being included in the final five suggested names.
“I believe it is in the best interest of the University to have a new nickname – something that will go along with continuing to be ‘North Dakota’ — just as other major universities have nicknames,” Kelley said at the time.
The vote on a new nickname won’t take place until the fall, and Johnson told the Herald the school will work at having the new moniker accepted by the school and the athletic teams’ fans.