FARGO, N.D. (CN) - The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux are a relic of history, after a long, contentious process ended with students and alumni voting to replace the school mascot with the Fighting Hawks.
The university began its hunt for a new name 10 years ago, when the NCAA banned the use of Native American nicknames without tribal support. The UND was given a grace period to seek support from the Sioux Tribes, and though North Dakota's Spirit Lake Sioux put the issue to a vote and tribal members favored keeping the Fighting Sioux , the Standing Rock Sioux, also of North Dakota, opposed it.
The Fighting Sioux was officially retired in 2012, though the name remained in common parlance.
After winnowing through more than 1,000 suggestions from the public, the school gave students, alumni, contributors and ticketholders a chance to vote online for a new name, but none of the five candidates got 50 percent + 1 vote.
Two runoff elections followed. The Fighting Hawks held a commanding lead from the first round on, and never relinquished it. The Hawks got 57.2 percent of the votes in the second runoff, beating out the Roughriders, at 42.8 percent.
The final round of voting saw the heaviest turnout, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
Voting was online, by students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors and season ticketholders.
The private nature of the voting process caused backlash from some members of the Sioux Tribes this year, as tribal members were not invited to vote unless they had one of the other prerequisite ties to the university.
A complaint was filed in Grand Forks County just days before the original vote was scheduled. Members of the Sioux Tribe attempted to halt the voting process.
"Someone with no other ties to UND other than the purchase of a season ticket is allowed to participate in the vote on the nickname selection, but not the members of the Sioux Nations, who bestowed the name to UND," plaintiffs said in their complaint.
A Fargo judge denied the request for an injunction, and the vote went off as scheduled.
Roughly 82,000 potential votes could have been cast - turnout for the final round came to just under 33 percent, with 27,000 votes cast.
The new nickname made its debut at Friday night's hockey game against St. Cloud State, which the Fighting Hawks won, 4-3.
The UND hockey team is known for two things: Controversial names and winning hockey games. Both qualities were on display, as the St. Cloud venue was full of green-and-white-clad UND fans still chanting the name "Fighting Sioux."
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