Forget early signing dates, satellite camps, cost of attendance scholarships. Forget it all. The biggest crisis facing college sports today is North Dakota's nickname choice.
After a 13-year fight, North Dakota voters elected to retire UND's controversial "Fighting Sioux" nickname in 2012. After three years without a nickname and a ridiculous submission process, the school has narrowed down the race to choose a new moniker to seven options.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, those choices are:
- Fighting Hawks
- Green Hawks
- North Stars
- North Dakota
Let's break each one down on its own merits, keeping in mind that a good nickname strikes a balance between originality and dopeyness.
Fighting Hawks: This is supposed to be a chance to break from the mold, to be original? This is as "Generic NCAA '06 Create-A-Team" as it gets. Hard pass.
Green Hawks: Better, but still no. North Dakota already shares a conference with the Eagles (Eastern Washington), the Hawks (Hartford), and the Thudnerbirds (Southern Utah). Let's shy away from the oft-used aviary-family.
Nodaks: Well, this one gets 10 points for originality. A term combining "North" and "Dakota" used by the state's residents, Nodaks guarantees that UND would never share a nickname with any college program, ever. Still, like Houston Texans, it feels a little redundant.
North Stars: I'm going to pass for two reasons. First, a school fresh off an evicted nickname using a nickname vacated by a failed professional franchise (Minnesota North Stars) feels like bad karma. Second, North Dakota North Stars feels way too redundant.
Roughriders: A slight favorite by the nickname committee, Roughriders is already used by the Texas Rangers' AA affiliate and a high school in Grand Forks, N.D. Plus, this country can not afford a turf war with Canada right now. No thanks.
Sundogs: Wikipedia tells me sun dogs are are an "anatmospheric phenomenon that consists of a pair of bright spots on either side on the Sun, often co-occurring with a luminous ring known as a 22° halo," a weather phenomenon that, I assume, happens in the vast expanse that is the North Dakota sky. This would be a unique option that offers lots of logo options.
North Dakota: I like it. What better way to reject the oppressive patriarchy than to reject the idea of nicknames altogether? "You won't let us have our nickname? Fine, we'll have no nickname." In a land where everyone has a nickname, what better way to stand out than being the one school without one?
The choice: As much as I'd support the opportunity to go without a nickname, North Dakota would ultimately be too anti-marketplace to win out. The school would pass up thousands in t-shirt and merchandise sales by going nickname-less. In the end, the choice has to be Sundogs: it's native to North Dakota while also tying into the state's Scandinavian heritage, and it's unique without sounding unfamiliar.
The seven names will be put to a public vote at a still to-be-determined date, allowing the masses to bring UND into a new era. And I think we can all agree that as long as voters don't choose "Fighting Hawks," everything will be alright.