Dickinson reacts to Fighting Hawks nickname

Hawks are usually solitary birds. But with arrival of the new University of North Dakota nickname, the Dickinson State University Blue Hawks are going to have some in-state company.

Hawks are usually solitary birds. But with arrival of the new University of North Dakota nickname, the Dickinson State University Blue Hawks are going to have some in-state company.

The Fighting Hawks -- the UND nickname that eventually rose to the top of a lengthy list Wednesday after a prolonged vetting and voting process -- will establish the Grand Forks university as the second North Dakota University System school to take wing with a “hawk” as part of its athletics nickname. The first, of course, being DSU.

The question of how the the two schools will share the skies is yet to be answered, but DSU interim President Jim Ozbun said DSU representatives have been in contact with the North Dakota attorney general’s office to see about protecting the shortened version of his university’s nickname.

“The Fighting Hawks is certainly different from Blue Hawks, but we often go by the shortened name of ‘Hawks,’” Ozbun said. “I’ve already expressed concern to the chancellor’s office and other places. If they’re going to go for Fighting Hawks, that’s fine. But it’d probably be better if they didn’t shorten it up.”

While he said Fighting Hawks, as a whole, is a great nickname and could produce a good mascot, Ozbun also pointed out the clear similarities in the two school’s nicknames and said that could cause “consternation” in the long run.


Regardless, Ozbun acknowledged the two universities as being part of the same unified system and said he wanted to work closely with UND to resolve any nickname issues that come up.

Ozbun added he was pleased UND’s nickname debate had been resolved after “haunting” the university and the state’s higher education system for “way too many years.”

Having a similar nickname likely won’t be an issue when it comes to athletic competition. UND plays at the NCAA Division I level and DSU is in the NAIA, meaning the teams rarely compete.

Fans respond to nickname, but are ready to move on

The announcement of the new nickname yielded a mixed reaction from area UND fans, who expressed sentiment for the Fighting Sioux nickname that was dropped after pressure from the NCAA.

From 2012 until Wednesday, the school had no nickname and competed simply as North Dakota.

Cliff Newby, co-owner of Newby’s Ace Hardware in Dickinson, still describes himself as a “big Sioux hockey fan” and has been a men’s hockey season ticket holder for the past six years.


“It’s not a good situation that we had to dump the nickname, but we were kind of forced to do it,” he said, adding that he would have preferred the school to keep on simply as North Dakota rather than replace Fighting Sioux with another nickname.

The option of remaining as North Dakota, or the “no nickname” choice, was omitted from contention during the selection process, leaving five other potential titles.

“Out of all five of them, the finalists, I didn’t like any of them,” Newby said.

Though he eventually voted for Fighting Hawks, he described it as merely “the lesser of the evils,” and while he hoped UND would design a new logo to pay homage to the old Fighting Sioux, Newby doesn’t plan on buying any newly branded merchandise anytime soon.

“We’re going to wear our Fighting Sioux stuff basically until it falls apart,” he laughed. “Then we’ll be forced to flip.”

Despite that, Newby said he was glad the nickname selection process, which he described as a “circus,” was finally over so the school could move on.

Dickinson attorney Haylee Cripe, a UND alumna who received both her bachelor’s degree and juris doctor there, said she was proud of her connection to the school no matter what the nickname is.

Cripe hoped the university community could come to stand behind the Fighting Hawks and said the school was “so much more than a nickname, to me.”


While she voted in one round of the nickname elections, she said the name itself mattered less to her than the prospect of the school progressing beyond the debate.

“This issue has been so divisive with the community, and I think it will continue to be for several years,” Cripe said. “ … I think when you focus on that small issue, you miss all the dynamic things about the university.”

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