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Published July 08, 2011, 04:07 PM

NCAA Fighting Sioux Trip Tab: $6K

A North Dakota delegation's one-day meeting with NCAA officials to support the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname is likely to cost taxpayers more than $6,000, state agency estimates say.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota delegation's one-day meeting with NCAA officials to support the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname is likely to cost taxpayers more than $6,000, state agency estimates say.

The NCAA has said the July 25 meeting in Indianapolis, where the association is based, will not change its policy of discouraging members' use of American Indian-themed mascots, logos and nicknames.

The association considers UND's Fighting Sioux nickname and American Indian head logo hostile to American Indians, and has said the school will face sanctions if they are kept beyond August. The nickname has also complicated UND's entry into the Big Sky Conference in 2012.

Earlier this year, the North Dakota Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill, sponsored by Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the House majority leader, that orders UND to keep the nickname and logo. The nickname's supporters say it is intended to honor the Sioux people, and Carlson asked for the meeting with the NCAA to attempt to explain the state's reasons for approving the law.

"It's an investment in those thousands of people who sent emails that said they wanted to save the name," Carlson said Friday. "I don't think any one of those would complain about having us spend $6,000 on the issue."

In response to requests from The Associated Press, UND, the Legislative Council and the governor's office disclosed the prices of airline tickets which have been purchased for the six participants to attend the meeting.

They are Carlson; Gov. Jack Dalrymple; Sen. Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, the Senate majority leader; Grant Shaft, the president of the state Board of Higher Education; UND President Robert Kelley; and the school's athletics director, Brian Faison.

Plane tickets for the six men will cost about $5,300, records show. Stenehjem and Carlson are eligible for $152 payments for spending a day on legislative business, while Shaft is eligible for a $148 payment. All six men are eligible to collect as much as $61 in meal money for the day.

The cost of the Indianapolis trip pales in comparison to state government travel spending in general. North Dakota Office of Management and Budget records show more than $14.2 million in state general fund expenditures on state employee travel and meals during the state's last two-year budget period.

The figures, the most recent available, include spending from July 1, 2009, through May 31. The state's two-year budget cycle ended June 30.

"I wouldn't even want to add up how much we spent on travel today, just for our state employees, and the things they're going to," Carlson said Friday. "We never keep track of what they do, but their travel budgets are huge. ... Nobody questions whether they bring anything back for it, but they question what a legislator does."

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