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Published May 01, 2012, 10:08 PM

UND Alumni Officials Start Statewide Campaign to Retire 'Fighting Sioux'

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation is willing to drop a lot of money on a campaign urging voters to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation is willing to drop a lot of money on a campaign urging voters to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

CEO Tim O'Keefe said Tuesday they could spend $250,000 on education efforts before the June 12 vote.

The UND Alumni Association and Foundation is launching a "Vote Yes on Measure 4" campaign urging North Dakota voters to vote yes to uphold the Legislature's repeal. This would allow UND to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

"It's not about the preference anymore. It's about the price that the University of North Dakota will pay if we're forced to keep the nickname," O'Keefe said.

"Like so many other Sioux fans, I'm not happy that we have to retire the Fighting Sioux name. But the price of keeping the nickname is too great. We must allow UND to move on," UND Foundation Chair Rick Burgum said.

At news conferences in four North Dakota cities on Tuesday, O'Keefe, Burgum and other UND alumni stressed the consequences the school will face if forced to remain the Fighting Sioux.

Among the NCAA sanctions, schools like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa have already stated they won't schedule athletic events with UND. On Tuesday, O'Keefe announced South Dakota State University will be added to that list.

"This list keeps growing. There are others in conversations with the athletic department. All that does is increase our isolation, it hurts us competitively, it hurts us economically," O'Keefe said.

O'Keefe says he expects to budget about $250,000 on efforts to inform, educate and influence North Dakota voters in the coming months.

"There won't be a penny of resources that the foundation holds today that are rededicated for anything to do with this effort," O'Keefe said.

He says he's confident the effort will be more than covered by alumni donations. It's playing a key role in this issue because the university itself cannot advocate for a yes vote.

"It's important that the citizens of North Dakota understand fully what the implications of this vote are. It isn't just an up or down vote in many ways," UND President Robert Kelley said.

O'Keefe said UND alumni will write newspaper op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, speak to local service clubs and carry the "Vote Yes" message to other social gatherings. He also said media, like commercials or flyers, may be part of that campaign as well.

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