FARGO, N.D. – University of North Dakota backers have selected Fighting Hawks as the school's new nickname, the school announced Wednesday.
The predatory bird mascot received 57 percent of the vote compared to 43 percent for Roughriders in the two-name runoff. The new nickname replaces Fighting Sioux, which was retired by the state Board of Higher Education in 2012 because the NCAA deemed it "hostile and abusive."
"I think this name underscores the tremendous competitive spirit of our athletic teams, our student athletes and the entirety of the University of North Dakota, expressing our state spirit and the fact that UND continues to ascend to new heights on a daily basis," President Robert Kelley said.
UND athletic director Brian Faison said the transition to the new name will begin immediately, but could take months to fully implement. The university will be accepting proposals from companies to design and market a new logo, to be completed next summer for use in the fall of 2016.
The vote was open to people with UND ties, including students, staff and alums, and 27,378 votes were cast. The school did not release vote totals among the stakeholders, but the UND student body president has said many students prefer Fighting Hawks because it retains some elements of the old nickname. Some unofficial versions of Fighting Hawks logos have made the rounds on social media.
The path to the new name was often arduous.
After a monthlong campaign to solicit suggestions from the public, a consultant presented 1,200 nicknames to a committee in May. The panel gradually whittled down the list to 15, then seven, and then the final five. It took three rounds of voting before the winning selection received at least 50 percent of the vote, as school officials wanted.
The final five were: Fighting Hawks; Roughriders; Nodaks; Sundogs; and North Stars.
Some alumni and fans lashed out at the decision to not include the option of no nickname on the final ballot. Kelley said it wasn't in the best interests of the school to move forward without a new moniker and said the school "will always be North Dakota."
The NCAA disputed the Fighting Sioux nickname and forced UND to retire it after the school failed to win approval to keep it from the state's two tribes. The Spirit Lake Tribe voted to keep the name but the Standing Rock Sioux held no vote on the matter. State residents voted overwhelmingly in early 2012 to dump the nickname and American Indian head logo that was first unveiled in the 1930s and redesigned by a Native American UND alumnus in 1999.
The selection of a new nickname has cost the school somewhere "in the high $200,000 range," said Susan Walton, UND's vice president for university and public affairs.
"We understand that that absolutely represents a significant expense," Walton said. "We don't know how much the next part of the process will cost."