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ND Supreme Court says higher ed board can retire UND Sioux nickname early

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed the district court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit by Fighting Sioux nickname supporters.

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The decision means the state Board of Higher Education does not need to wait until Nov. 30 to begin retiring the nickname.

The Supreme Court ruled today the settlement agreement with the NCAA does not delegate to the two Sioux tribes the authority to determine usage of the nickname and logo.

A group of Spirit Lake Sioux tribal members and nickname supporters sued the board, arguing that it needs to wait until Nov. 30 to retire the nickname.

"We construe the language of the settlement agreement as a whole to allow UND to transition to a new nickname and logo at the end of the approval period, 'or at any time during the Approval Period,' " the court wrote in its unanimous opinion.

"We conclude the plain and unambiguous language of the settlement agreement, when construed as a whole and in conjunction with the Board's constitutional and statutory authority, does not require the Board or UND to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo until November 30, 2010.

"We therefore conclude the settlement agreement, when construed as a whole, does not delegate to the two tribes the ultimate authority to determine usage of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, or limit the Board's authority to terminate the nickname and logo before November 30, 2010.

"Because we construe the language of the settlement agreement to permit the Board to terminate UND's nickname and logo before November 30, 2010, it is not necessary to further consider the issue about the plaintiffs' standing. We have considered the remaining issues and arguments raised by the parties and find them to be either unnecessary to our decision or without merit."

The state Board of Higher Education is meeting today at Mayville State University. Board members have not yet discussed the ruling, which was just issued today.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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