GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- North Dakota University System officials are anxious about whether Standing Rock tribal officials will ever agree to discuss the future of the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname.
And they hope the answer may come today when North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz meets with recently elected Tribal Chairman Charlie Murphy.
"It would be nice to know what the intent of the council might be as far as holding a referendum," said State Board of Higher Education President Richie Smith.
The board, which oversees the university system, has indicated it's anxious to resolve the controversy so UND could apply to join the Summit League athletic conference, and has imposed several deadlines, the last one on Oct. 31.
But Standing Rock Chairman Charles W. Murphy has told the state board that he would be willing to talk about the issue, but not under a deadline. This set the stage for today's meeting.
But it appears Goetz will be the only higher education official to meet with Murphy. NDUS spokeswoman Debra Anderson said that, as far as she knew, it will be a one-on-one meeting.
She didn't have other details, such as time and place, and said the chancellor was booked for the day and could not speak to reporters.
Anderson said Goetz will wait to discuss his meeting with Murphy with other university system officials until the higher ed board's Nov. 19 meeting in Minot.
Standing Rock's position on the nickname is critical both because of the state board's anxiety with ending the controversy and because the settlement between the state and the NCAA, which considers American Indian nicknames offensive, requires the support of both Sioux tribes in the state.
The Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation has already agreed to the nickname use after a referendum in which 67 percent of voters supported the nickname.
Tu-Uyen Tran is a reporter at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. The Herald and the Bemidji Pioneer are owned by Forum Communications Co.