FARGO, N.D. (AP) — University of North Dakota backers have selected Fighting Hawks as the school's new nickname, the school announced Wednesday.
The predatory bird mascot was declared the winner after receiving 57 percent of the vote compared to 43 percent for Roughriders in the two-nickname runoff. The vote was open to people with UND ties, including students, staff and alums, and 27,378 votes were cast. The new nickname replaces the Fighting Sioux name that was retired by the state Board of Higher Education in 2012 because the NCAA deemed it "hostile and abusive."
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 and logo. Some versions of Fighting Hawks logos made the rounds on social media, but the school has not endorsed a design.
The path to the new name was often arduous.
In May, a committee began debating about 1,200 nicknames that had been approved by a consultant after a monthlong campaign to solicit suggestions from the public. The group 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. UND President Robert 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.