Letter: ‘Fighting Sioux’ hurts UND athletic programs
My association with the University of North Dakota and Fighting Sioux athletics included 23 years of involvement as an athlete and coach. This relationship will always be a source of pride for me and my family.
I’m writing this letter because I care about the future of UND athletics. I want only the best opportunities for all student-athletes who have and will have the tremendous honor of representing this great university.
Since leaving North Dakota, I have followed the recent developments at UND as an insider and an outsider. Being 1,000 miles away from Grand Forks and surrounded by non-biased individuals who are trying to understand the controversy of using the Fighting Sioux as a team name has been both frustrating and enlightening. Because of these observations, I can make the following statements without hesitation.
The Fighting Sioux name controversy is hurting the athletic programs in recruiting. I have asked many athletes who are being recruited by top FCS programs, including UND, why had they eliminated UND as a potential option. Their response was they had a negative perception of UND because of the NCAA sanctions. Opposing recruiters will continue to use the NCAA sanctions to their advantage.
Plus, any NCAA sanctions could be disastrous to the completion of the Division I transition. Conference affiliation is essential for survival for every sport. Without a league, options will be limited. In addition to conference membership, UND must be able to schedule regional rivals such as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. These money games will be extremely beneficial for the athletic budget, fans will enjoy the rivalry experience, and recruits will relish the opportunity of playing these high-profile schools.
Therefore, I’m at a point where my understanding of this situation is extremely clear. If the name is kept, the success of athletic programs at UND will be limited due to the NCAA sanctions. If conference affiliation is lost, the survival of the athletic department at the Division I level will be in jeopardy.
On the other hand, if the name is retired, UND athletics would regain control of its destiny. UND could recruit the best student-athletes available and allow them the opportunity of competing at the highest level possible in their division. As a proud alumnus who wants his alma mater achieving greatness, this is our only option.
Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concern.
Dale Lennon, Southern Illinois University head football coach, Carbondale, Ill.