Emails Show Some Big Sky Schools Thought UND Admission Was “Done Deal” Despite Fighting Sioux Controversy
With the vote on Measure 4, which is the Fighting Sioux issue, less than two weeks away the University of North Dakota Alumni Association is spending a lot of their private foundation money on a fear-mongering campaign suggesting that keeping the nickname would destroy the university.
Here’s their television ad:
The problem is that the damage keeping the Sioux logo/nickname will do to the university has been exaggerated, and new information obtained from Big Sky schools proves it.
A response to a Freedom of Information request by Cal State University – Sacramento (Sacramento State) has revealed that Sacramento officials have limited awareness of the Sioux nickname issue and were not aware of any pending UND expulsion from the Big Sky if nickname stays.
From an internal correspondence responding to a Sioux fan email, one Sacramento official stated that UND in the Big Sky is a “done deal”. The Faculty Representative who attended the Big Sky meetings also stated that several – not all – Big Sky Presidents expressed concern about the nickname. Since a vote to expel UND from the Big Sky requires unanimous Presidential approval, these documents show that the Fighting Sioux nickname is not an overriding membership issue with at least one Big Sky administration.
Sacramento State has scheduled and played UND in men’s basketball during the past two years, so clearly Sacramento State does not have a policy that prohibits scheduling schools with Native American nicknames.
In an internal email on January 3rd of this year, the Special Assistant to Sacramento State’s President John Kepley stated that UND’s move to the Big Sky is a “done deal” and wasn’t aware of any pending action to kick UND out of the Big Sky. Mr Kepley requested a response from Sac St President Alexander Gonzalez, who in turn seemingly confessed that he wasn’t very aware of the Fighting Sioux nickname controversy.
President Gonzalez asked the Faculty Athletic Representative (Steve Perez) to brief him on the Sioux nickname.
Mr. Perez responds by briefing Gonzalez on what transpired in the May 2011 Big Sky meetings. Perez is not aware of any move to kick UND out of the conference – only that Commissioner Fullerton has been authorized to write a letter to UND expressing concern about the nickname and that the Big Sky supports the NCAA’s position. The NCAA’s position has never been to kick UND out of the NCAA, only that UND shall not be host post-season play as long as Standing Rock does not also approve the nickname.
The email conversation among Sacramento officials can be found here.
Other Freedom of Information requests show that three Big Sky Presidents, Portland State University’s Wim Wiewel, the University of Montana’s Royce Engstrom, and Montana State’s President Waded Cruzado, have exhibited a higher level of concern regarding the Fighting Sioux nickname than the rest of the Big Sky Presidents. Each receive periodic updates from Big Sky Commissioner Fullerton on the Fighting Sioux nickname status. Portland State’s Wiewel, who has previously worked with UND President Robert Kelley at the University of Illinois system, seems especially strident in his opposition to the nickname.
All of this conflicts with the narrative we’ve gotten from the university system and their apologist, which is that keeping the Sioux nickname is a death sentence for the university.
That is an exaggeration, to say the least.Tags: big sky conference, fighting sioux, North Dakota News, Sacramento State, University of North Dakota