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Published April 06, 2011, 04:10 PM

ND Dems, Gov. Dalrymple Want Meeting with NCAA Open to Public

Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple and North Dakota's Democratic legislative leaders said Wednesday they believe a meeting between state officials and NCAA executives to discuss the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname should be open to the public.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple and North Dakota's Democratic legislative leaders said Wednesday they believe a meeting between state officials and NCAA executives to discuss the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname should be open to the public.

Sen. Ryan Taylor, D-Towner, the Senate's Democratic leader, and his House counterpart, Rep. Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton, also suggested that representatives of North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes be invited to the April 22 meeting.

"We consider open and accessible meetings to be a tenet of good government, and feel strongly that the meeting should be open," Taylor and Kelsh said in their letter, which was addressed to Jon Backes, president of the state Board of Higher Education.

Dalrymple said he could "not imagine any reason why that meeting would need to be closed."

"The only question I would have (for the Board of Higher Education) would be: Can you give me a reason why that should be a private meeting?" Dalrymple said Wednesday.

The NCAA considers the Fighting Sioux nickname and a UND logo that features the profile of an American Indian warrior to be hostile and abusive to American Indians. Last month, the North Dakota Legislature approved, and Dalrymple signed, legislation that requires UND to keep the nickname and logo. It takes effect Aug. 1.

At the behest of Backes and Grant Shaft, the board's vice president, UND President Robert Kelley has arranged an April 22 meeting in Bismarck with NCAA President Mark Emmert and Bernard Franklin, the college athletics association's executive vice president and chief inclusion officer, to discuss the issue.

Shaft said Dalrymple, Kelley, UND athletics director Brian Faison and the Legislature's Republican majority leaders, Fargo Rep. Al Carlson and Bismarck Sen. Bob Stenehjem, have been invited, as have Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and William Goetz, the chancellor of North Dakota's university system. The Stenehjems are brothers.

Shaft has said the meeting will be closed. The board met Wednesday by conference call, and The Associated Press circulated a letter to Goetz and board members beforehand asking them to support opening the meeting.

Backes acknowledged receiving the letter, but board members did not discuss it during Wednesday's meeting. Backes said the April 22 meeting was "not really a board issue" but did not elaborate.

Backes did not respond afterward to telephone and email messages asking for comment on the statements by Dalrymple and the Democratic legislative leaders.

The NCAA has said that if UND continues using the logo and Fighting Sioux Nickname, the Grand Forks school will be barred from hosting postseason tournaments. Also, the NCAA says UND players will not be allowed to wear uniforms with the nickname and logo during postseason play.

The Board of Higher Education sued the NCAA over its edict. The dispute was settled in 2007, and UND was given three years to obtain endorsements from the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes to continue using the nickname and logo. The Standing Rock tribe has declined to give its approval.

The University of North Dakota had been planning to retire the nickname and logo in August before Dalrymple signed the law requiring the school to keep them.

UND's men's hockey team is competing in the NCAA's Frozen Four Division I championships this week in St. Paul, Minn. The team will be able to wear its normal uniforms, which feature the logo and nickname, and the NCAA is marketing UND merchandise with the name and logo on its website.

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