At the University of North Dakota, Another Feud Over Another Logo

There is a feud on-going between University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy and Engelstad Family Foundation trustee Kris Engelstad McGarry.

For those of you who don’t know, the foundation is a major donor to UND. Their gifts have included the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. But right now the foundation and the university aren’t getting along.

McGarry requested a visit with the editorial board of the Grand Forks Herald, a meeting during which she spoke of a fractured relationship with the university. It’s previously been reported that negotiations over a ticket revenues in a new contract between the university and RE Arena Inc., the entity that owns and manages the Ralph Engelstad Arena, is at the heart of the dispute. McGarry has also said that divisions over the now-retired “Fighting Sioux” nickname have nothing to do with the present issues.

But according to emails I obtained through an open records request, the use of UND’s “Fighting Hawks” logo on the center of the re-surfaced court at The Betty is very much a part of this spat. The nickname would be used elsewhere on the court, but not in the center.

The “Fighting Hawks” logo is the (deeply uninspiring and soul-suckingly generic) replacement chosen in the wake of the controversial “Fighting Sioux” branding being retired.

You can read all the emails I obtained below, but here are some excerpts showing the path of hostilities between the two sides.

First, on March 30 of this year, Kennedy emails REA General Manager Jody Hodgson expressing the university’s desire that the “Fighting Hawks” logo be used at the center of the resurfaced court (page 6):

On April 19 UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves follows up with Hodgson backing Kennedy’s argument. Hodgson replies saying that while the university’s position is appreciated, his board is likely to go with a generic “North Dakota” at center court as you can see from the mock up image above which was included in the emails (page 5):

That reply from Hodgson sets off a hotly-worded April 25 email from Kennedy to McGarry. It’s long, but here’s an excerpt. The entire email starts on page 3 below:

On April 27 McGarry sends Kennedy an email, with the mock up image from above, saying that the “Fighting Hawks” logo will not be at center court (page 10):

On May 1 Kennedy fired off another missive to McGarry suggesting that the agreement between the two entities was being violated, and that McGarry and her board were not acting in the best interests of the university. Again, an excerpt, read the whole email on page 14:

That’s pretty much were it ends, at least in the emails I requested. The last email from Kennedy to McGarry refers to an impending campus visit by the latter, with Kennedy hoping to plan a reception. Per McGarry’s last email the resurfacing of the court was supposed to start earlier this month. I’ve emailed university spokesman Peter Johnson to get the status on that, and I’ll update this post with any information I receive.

UPDATE: “I’m not sure where that is at.  The work may have started or it may start soon,” Johnson told me via email this morning. “Kris Engelstad McGarry would like North Dakota at center court; we would like the Fighting Hawk logo, as described by President Kennedy in his emails.”

Aside from that, this is an interesting peek behind the curtain at UND’s efforts to move on from the “Fighting Sioux” logo. I don’t think there’s much enthusiasm to start a new campaign to go back. I don’t think that would even be possible at this point. But there is still a lot of resistance, outside of the university’s official position, to embracing the “Fighting Hawks” logo.

I still think UND would have been better off with no new nickname at all. They should have just stuck with “North Dakota” and moved on.

For Kennedy, this little food fight comes at a bad time. He’s already under fire for flirting with a different job in Florida, despite not having been in his current job all that long. Finding himself at odds with his university’s biggest benefactors cannot be a comfortable position.

Here are all the emails I obtained. My request was for all emails to or from President Kennedy mentioning McGarry from January 1 forward.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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