UND players unhappy about nickname news
GRAND FORKS -- One can take the Sioux away from the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Taking Sioux traditions away from them may be another story.
When the Sioux football team runs onto the field before the start of a game, the head coach yells "Hoka Hey!"
Players respond with "Hoka Hey!"
It's been going on for years as part of Sioux football tradition.
Crazy Horse encouraged his warriors heading into battle by shouting the phrase, which translated means it is a good day or time to die.
Ross Cochran, a Sioux football player who has a "Hoka Hey" tattoo, said of the tradition: "I don't think that will change."
It's one of the examples UND administrators, coaches and players will have to deal with after Thursday's news regarding the nickname-logo.
The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education voted 8-0 Thursday to drop the Fighting Sioux nickname-logo, if a 30-year agreement with the state's two Sioux namesake tribes isn't reached by Oct. 1.
"I hate to see it go," Cochran said of the nickname-logo.
He's not alone.
Many UND athletes are disappointed, and say it's difficult because they felt the decision to keep or drop the nickname was out of their control.
They started to prepare for the possibility of losing the nickname-logo when a settlement was reached with the NCAA to resolve the issue. That didn't help brace them for Thursday's news out of the State Board of Higher Education meeting in Dickinson.
"We kind of knew it was coming; we didn't know when," UND linebacker Ryan Kasowski said. "We pride ourselves on being the Sioux. We take a lot of pride in that nickname.
"For some of us, no matter what they do, we're always going to be Sioux."
UND football safety Joel Schwenzfeier says Sioux players had been warned that the nickname-logo could be retired. He had witnessed some of the Sioux gear, such as travel sweats and workout uniforms, being issued without the logo and nickname on it.
And the Sioux football jerseys won't have the logo on them next fall.
"We've kind of had to deal with it our whole time here, so we've kind of adapted, adjusted," Schwenzfeier said. "Initially, it's going to be tough. I think eventually it will bury itself in the ground."
He says the nickname is used with respect.
"It's never used as a negative term," he said. "It's usually the other teams or other institutions that slander it."
Ryan Duncan, who just completed his final season as a member of the UND men's hockey team as one of the all-time Sioux greats, has a hard time understanding why the change is needed.
"This institution does a good job of representing the Sioux and what they stand for," Duncan said. "I don't think the nickname or logo is hostile or abusive.
"It would definitely be a sad day if they took the logo. ... I'm actually surprised it happened so fast. You always hear rumblings, but it seems like everything gets appealed and it's going to be put off and put off again."
Matt Bakke sees both sides of the issue. He's a Sioux football player and a UND student body vice president who attended Grand Forks Central High School.
"I'm a big believer in tradition, but I can understand the other side as well," Bakke said. "I love the Sioux nickname. ... I can understand that we need to be sensitive to other people's feelings."
Sioux women's basketball player Alys Seay, who also attended Grand Forks Central, says she hates to see the nickname-logo go. At the same time, she trusts that decisions are being made with the best interest at heart.
UND is hoping to find a long-term solution for conference affiliation for several sports as it continues its transition to Division I athletics. The Summit League has said it won't consider the school until its nickname issue is resolved.
So the board had to weigh the nickname against an opportunity to be part of the Summit League, which includes UND's old rival, North Dakota State.
"It would be sad, just because I grew up here and that's all I've known," Seay said of the Fighting Sioux nickname-logo.
The Grand Forks Herald and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.