The University of North Dakota has been engaged in a search for a new nickname for the past year, after they decided to end a decade-long battle with the NCAA and at least one Native American tribe and give up their Fighting Sioux nickname. They solicited suggestions online and received thousands, many of them hilariously vulgar and subsequently rejected.
In September the quite serious nickname committee whittled the list down to five finalists: Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders, and Sundogs. A trademark troll also tried to hijack the process, to no avail.
The five finalists were submitted to a vote from students, alumni, faculty, and various others associated with UND. Fighting Hawks was chosen by a plurality of voters, 31 percent, but since it failed to garner a majority it went to a second round along with Roughriders and Nodaks. The second round of voting followed a similar pattern, as Fighting Hawks was chosen by 46 percent of voters to advance to a run-off, along with Roughriders.
The results from that final run-off are in, and 57 percent of the 27,378 voters chose the Fighting Hawks. Over the next three years, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks nickname will be fully implemented across all athletic programs.
According to a probably totally inaccurate Wikipedia list, 28 four-year colleges have a hawk for a mascot, making it the eighth most popular mascot in college sports. There are the plain ‘ol vanilla Hawks, like the University of Hartford Hawks, but also the Warhawks (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Skyhawks (Tennessee-Martin), the Nighthawks (North Georgia), and many others. As far as I can tell there are no other Fighting Hawks, so points for that tiny bit of originality I guess.
The best mascots wholly represent their school, and are drawn from something unique about its history, culture, or geography. While Fighting Sioux had its problems, it at least followed these best practices. I thought Nodaks—a nickname for people from North Dakota—was the best of the bunch, though North Stars, Roughriders, and Sundogs all at least have some unique connection to North Dakota and/or the Northern Plains.
But the Fighting Hawks? Upon its unveiling, at a press conference that would hopefully inspire the UND community to rally behind their new mascot, president Robert Kelley had this to say:
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 newer heights on a daily basis.
That almost put me to sleep. You could replace “University of North Dakota” in that statement with literally any other college and it would make just as much sense, that’s how generic Fighting Hawks is. A species of hawk isn’t even the state bird, for crying out loud, the Western Meadowlark is! Which, incidentally, would have been a much better choice for the new nickname. (Fighting Meadowlarks, Golden Larks, Green Meadowlarks, Larks, Meadowlarks, and Western Meadowlarks were all suggested, as well as Exaltation, which is apparently what you call a group of larks.)
The University of North Dakota says it spent over $200,000 throughout the nickname process, and that doesn’t include the money it will soon have to pay for a design firm to create the new Fighting Hawks logo. Money well spent, guys.
Screenshot via Grand Forks Herald; h/t Jack