GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Fifteen possibilities are now under consideration to be the University of North Dakota's new nickname.
Using a process UND's 11-person nickname committee created moments before implementing it, the committee went through a list of 63 names they had approved from 1,172 individual nickname ideas submitted by the public throughout the month of April. If a suggestion had at least two committee members who supported it, it was kept for the next round of discussion.
"If you feel strongly for or against a name, I would let it out," consultant Kelly O'Keefe told the committee before they began working. "I wouldn't hold back. This is a time for spirited debate."
But many of the nickname ideas were eliminated without much conversation, including "Warhawks," "Snow Leopards," "Prairie Hawks," "Wooly Mammoth" and "Green Pride."
The committee kept "Blaze," "Force," "Fighting Green," "North Stars," "Sundogs," "Thunder Hawks" and "Spirit" for consideration, to name a few.
"I kind of like the 'Spirit,' as kind of the spirit of North Dakota," Committee Chairman and UND alumnus Karl Goehring said. "It just sticks out a little bit to me."
The committee is tasked with presenting the public with a small group of names to vote on after the school's controversial Fighting Sioux monicker was retired in late 2012, when the NCAA threatened sanctions if the name was not dropped.
Continuing to play simply as "North Dakota" is still an option. Goehring said in his experience with the last task force, many alumni were in favor of it.
"They saw it as a way to stay unique, to stay themselves," he said. "People felt forced by the NCAA, and they feel it's a way to make a statement that that's who they are as alumni."
Next, committee members will individually and by themselves rate the remaining 15 names with -1, 0 or 1 point on a list of nine separate criteria and discuss it at the next meeting, which is open to the public and has yet to be scheduled. Those criteria include having a name that's unique, promotes a sense of pride, represents the region and is unifying.
Other criteria revolve around technical aspects of name, such as whether it's easy to pronounce or would work well for the creation of a cheer.
Goehring said these rankings will be used for discussion, and the next step of whether to eliminate a name will be a topic of discussion at the next meeting.
UND professor and committee member John Bridewell spearheaded the conversation about eliminating many of the names associated with the aerospace industry and UND's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.
"We have an outstanding medical school, but I don't see doctors on the list," he said. "We're looking for a long-term endeavor here."
All of those nicknames were subsequently eliminated, along with anything to do with "Bombers," because it had a similar connotation.
"Flickertails," the nickname the school used prior to adopting the Fighting Sioux name in the 1930s, was eliminated after UND student and committee member Landon Bahl said he had been told by many people they hated that idea.
Some names that were similar were considered in bulk by the committee. "Force," was moved forward for consideration while "Arctic Force," Force of the North" and "North Force" were eliminated.
Committee member and UND alumnus Lowell Schweigert was in favor of several variations of "hawk," three of which made the cut.
The committee chose to not consider any form of "Nokota" at O'Keefe's recommendation because of it's affiliation with a tribally bred horse.
The consulting firm PadillaCRT, which the school has been working with, purchased 265 domain names in line with the suggested names, but O'Keefe said in an email they are holding off on another round of buying for now until the list is much smaller.
Nickname list moving forward
- Fighting Green
- Fighting Hawks
- Green Hawks
- North Dakota
- North Stars
- Thunder Hawks